By Robert Rogers
There are headlines and then there are stories. When it comes to immigration, the headlines come fast and furious; reforming the law, building a wall, granting asylum to refugees, issuing more visas for tech workers – there are few subjects today that are more in the news.
But the practice of immigration law isn’t about the headlines. It is about the stories of individuals and families trying to build a better life. It is about helping companies find and keep the employees they need and helping those workers build their careers. It is about counseling and assisting people who may be facing the prospect of their lives being turned upside-down by the threat of deportation.
For young lawyers or law students considering opening an immigration law practice, the immediate, life-changing impact that the work can have on clients makes it one of the most rewarding fields in the profession.
Not that it is without frustration or setbacks. Laws that constantly shift with the political winds, an overwhelmed immigration court system, and often-byzantine processes means there are days where you’ll want to throw up your hands in defeat.
But you won’t. Because you know those hands hold your clients’ future in them.
Many of the challenges of starting your own immigration practice are the same as they are for any young lawyer hanging up a shingle in any other practice area. A recent post on the YLD blog nicely laid out many of those challenges. But for young immigration attorneys in particular, there are two key choices and efforts they should make early on that can determine what your practice will be and how much satisfaction you’ll derive from this important work.
- Full-Service or Focus
While there are many aspects to immigration practice, it can generally be classified by the kind of client you are assisting:
- Individuals and families who you help with maintaining or adjusting immigration status; defend from deportation or removal proceedings; and assist with visas and other requirements that allow them to stay and build a life here.
- Corporate clients who need assistance with bringing highly-skilled workers into the country and keeping them in good standing.
- Refugees and asylum seekers, such as the Syrians fleeing their country’s civil war, who are looking to escape violence or persecution in their home countries and start anew in this country
You can choose to service all three types of immigration clients or focus your practice – and marketing efforts – on just one.
- Know Your Stuff – and Your Clients
Not every practice area can boast (using that term loosely) of their own court system, but the fact that immigration does is reflective of the fact that it is a particularly unique area of the law that requires a steadfast commitment to understanding and keeping abreast of changes in laws, rules, and procedures.
You also need to educate yourself about the distinct cultures and circumstances your clients are coming from. In order to fully service and build trust with the folks looking to you to secure their future, your empathy and ability to see things as they do can inform how you handle their particular situation. It can also make a successful outcome that much more rewarding for you personally and professionally, which is perhaps the most compelling argument for starting your career in immigration law.
Robert Rogers is a Miami based immigration and small business attorney. He specializes in helping foreign businesses set up practice in the United States. For more information, visit Robert on the web: corallaw.com.