SMS Law Firm
Global. Dependable. Results.
Clients are people. A simple powerful statement that we live by.
People have issues, emotions, and beliefs and the legal world is never an easy process. That’s why our focus is on working with each client to provide a custom experience for their legal matters ensuring we are working together as people, as well as professionals. We are transparent, straightforward, and personal. We care about each clients and over the past decade, our practice has been tailored for a complete solution for families immigrating to the USA and helping them with every aspect of their lives.
With over 40 years of combined legal experience, SMS Law Firm has serviced clients and their families from over 27 countries. From immigration, to business formation, and to wealth protection, we are a specialized law firm servicing high net-worth individuals and families and ensuring we tailor a unique solution for every person.
Meet Our Team
Stella M. Shih, Esq.
Founder and Senior Partner
Stella is SMS Law Firm’s original founder and began her career litigating federal and state tax cases with the Legal Aid Society. A naturalized citizen herself, Stella greatly connects with families entering the United States for the first time and the challenges that arise being in a new environment. A recipient of the Wiley w. Manual Award for Pro Bono Legal Services, her experience providing excellent legal services for the under-represented have been a focal point for SMS Law Firm to over-achieve for every client, no matter what background they come from.
She is tri-lingual and is fluent in English, Chinese (Mandarin), and Taiwanese. With over 15 years of legal experience, Stella realized that the Asian community lacked high quality, professional legal services that could bridge the gap both culturally and linguistically for foreign clients. Today, SMS Law Firm is proud to be the largest, local Chinese-speaking law firm in San Diego, California under Stella’s vision.
In Stella’s off-time, you will find her reading, painting, gardening, and spoiling her two shih-tzus at home.
Key Practice Areas: Tax; Immigration; Business; Wills and Trusts; Investments and Wealth Planning; Family;
James S. Shih, Esq.
James is one of the original partners of SMS Law Firm and began his legal career in litigation. With 10 years of legal experience, James has an extensive background in investment immigration, international experience, and a results-focused process. He is an expert and provides opinions at events, media, and seminars on multi-national platforms for EB-5 and other investment immigration routes. His focus is on identifying the most optimal path for clients and providing a clear solution to difficult problems according to the letter of the law.
James is fluent in English with conversational Chinese and Spanish. Currently, James is leading investment immigration to the United States and implanting change in the quickly rising “essential goods” industry – cannabis.
In James off-time, you might him running on the beach, surfing, or at the gym practicing muay thai.
Key Practice Areas: Immigration; Business; Investments; Cannabis; Family;
Kevin Qi, Esq.
Kevin is one of the original partners of SMS Law Firm. A naturalized U.S. citizen himself at an early age, Kevin understands the challenges for foreigners and their children entering the United States for the first time. His approach to legal practice is to ensure that each of his clients understand how the law intersects with their lives, so they are empowered to make informed choices. His attention to detail and leadership over the firm’s immigration team when examining and analyzing complex areas of immigration law has resulted in a 100% approval rate for his EB-5, L-1, and E-2 clients.
Kevin is fluent in Mandarin Chinese. He manages the civil litigation division for the firm and ensures that each client is provided with a clear, legal path to success.
In his spare time Kevin enjoys reading, history, and following current news and politics. He is also an amateur baseball enthusiast, and is patiently waiting for the Padres to rebuild their team.
Key Practice Areas: Immigration; Business; Wills and Trusts; Investments; Family;
Peter Lay, Esq.
Partner, Los Angeles, CA
Peter became partner showing a dedicated approach with dependable results for every client. A previous judicial extern for the Honorable Judge Ramona G. See, Peter is meticulous in his approach giving confidence to clients every step of their process through educating and achieving the expected results. He has extensive experience working with foreign and domestic clients for their business immigration.
Peter is fluent in Khmer. He is the head attorney of SMS Law Firm’s Los Angeles office which opened in June 2020.
In his free time Peter enjoys watching football, playing with his French Bulldog Pepper, travelling and visiting his family in Cambodia.
Key Practice Areas: Immigration; Business; Wills and Trusts; Investments; Family;
Associate, San Diego
Juan is an associate at SMS Headquarters in San Diego where he assists both local and international clients. Born in Colombia, Juan has first-hand knowledge of the struggles and obstacles of the immigration process, and he strives to gives his clients the best representation and results he can. Juan graduated from California Western School of Law where he specialized in Intellectual Property Law. Duringlaw school, Juan externed at both the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and at the Chilean Patent Office where he assisted in drafting international relations policy manuals.
Juan is fluent in Spanish and French, which he used regularly to communicate with SMS Law Firm’s global clientele.
In his free time, you can catch Juan in the gym, playing tennis, traveling, or with his two Corgis, Koopa and Bowser!
Key Practice Areas: Immigration Law; Wills and Trusts; Business Law;
Julio Aspe, Esq.
Attorney, Tijuana, MX
Julio has more than 30 years of legal practice in the areas of constitutional, administrative, tax, and money laundering litigation. He obtained his J.D. from the prestigious Escuela Libre de Derecho in Mexico City. He holds an LLM in American Legal Studies from St. Mary´s School of Law in San Antonio, TX. He received his PhD in Criminal Sciences from the National Institute of Criminal Sciences of the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic (FGR) in Mexico. His publications include: “Legal personality of the human embryo” (1992); “Cesare Lombroso: old and new ways of racial profiling in America” (2010); and the book: “Money Laundering and Tax Fraud in the Mexican Legal System” (2019).
Julio is fluent in Spanish, English and Italian. He is the head of the Tijuana division focusing on civil and criminal defense for money laundering and tax fraud for high net worth clients in Mexico.
Key Practice Areas: Fraud, Money Laundering, and Tax Defense; Immigration;
Chapman C. Chan, Esq.
Head of Personal Financial Law Section
Chapman is the head of Personal Financial Law Section of SMS Law. He provides financial consulting services to corporate executives and directors, to productive small business owners and doctors, and to affluent individuals through his unique practice of personal finance law.
He implements unique tax reduction and life income generation programs that maximizes his clients’ efficiency in converting earnings to savings, protecting earnings and assets from catastrophic losses, converting savings to guaranteed life income and leveraging surplus savings to create perpetually multiplying funding for affluent individuals’ family members. He also provides wealth-transfer legacy and endowment planning for affluent individuals that results in inter-generational multiplication of their savings that exceeds their lifestyle costs through their life expectancies.
Key Practice Areas: Wealth Management; Tax;
SMS is Family
At SMS Law Firm, we are family. From administrator to attorney, every person is a valued member of our family.
We strive to provide a challenging environment for highly versatile individuals which play a pivotal role in providing quality services to our clients. We focus on giving an environment of competence, responsibility, and family to build each team member’s confidence to adapt to any solution – no matter how tough.
Hear from our family how we grow and help our clients together.
Legal Support Team
Work at SMS Law Firm is both rewarding and challenging. SMS Law holds us in the legal support team in very high regard and only expect the highest quality of work from these positions. That being said, all attorneys and legal staff at SMS Law will agree that being a law clerk is a very daunting, but rewarding task. As law clerks, we are given real hands on experience in dealing with clients by interacting with them and assisting in paperwork just as a practicing attorney would in real time. All of our work is carefully supervised to ensure that any final product is the highest standard which SMS Law ensures to all of its clients. This allows all law clerks at SMS Law to work in a healthy, efficient, and effective legal practice at SMS Law with bright futures. This strategy opens up the door for law clerks to have the best work experience while ensuring top-tier quality legal work. In light of this, SMS Law is growing at a rapid speed and all law clerks that make it through the process are typically offered a post-bar job, thereby allowing them to start their honorable profession as an attorney in an environment that they are comfortable, confident, and proud to work in. We pride ourselves in our mentoring program and our pride in this program shows very clearly in our work product from all law clerks and associates at SMS Law.
São Paulo, Brazil
As a new international branch office of SMS Law Firm, we have rapidly developed and expanded our horizons and knowledge of international business affairs, both in the workplace and as individuals. Every day we face challenging tasks dealing with cross-border cultural and financial differences. This involves a lot of creative, out-of-the box thinking in order to provide positive solutions to our clients. Thankfully, the SMS Law Team has the expertise, knowledge, and encourages us so that we can provide unique, customized routes for our clients they cannot find anywhere else. It’s always a pleasure to hear from a client that they spoke with multiple other “immigration specialists” that “they have found the people they want to work with” for their case.
We are currently based in Brazil and offer services in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. We are driven, detail-oriented, and follow globally-recognized standards of service so we can provide the best communication, products, and results for our clients.
As the international APAC office in SMS Law Firm, we have learnt numerous skills and experienced many things that can only be achieved working in this wonderful company. It can be extremely challenging, with tasks varying from simple administration to serving multiple millionaire clients. We mostly cater to immigration cases, and as all of us are bilingual in Chinese Mandarin and English; this is beneficial to communicating with agents and clients who prefer their native language.
We are proud to have been able to meet the expectations of trust, confidentiality, and diligence that the attorneys supervise us, even if it does result in a mountain of paperwork. We never knew, till now, that paper cuts were a job hazard! The work can be intimidating and at times overwhelming. However, we know that the SMS Law team is supports us and is behind us. All of it is worth it when the applications pass, and we successfully fulfill the clients’ goals. At SMS Law Firm, we prioritize customer service, and we strive to serve our clients with the best of our abilities.
SMS's Global Footprint
Servicing clients from over 27 countries, SMS Law Firm is ready to help.