5 Habits of Successful Immigration Organizations

Habits play a critical role in how we humans behave so much that Charles Duhigg released his new book yesterday, The Power of Habit discussing this topic.  Mr. Duhigg discusses the way companies have thrived by focusing on how to transform the habits of their employees and their customers.  In the context of running a successful immigration law office or organization, harnessing the power of good habits is the key to ensuring success.  Read on to find out if you and your team members are practicing good habits.

Good Habit #1: Asking Lots of Questions.  Clients will walk through your door and it’s up to you to know what questions to ask.  Are you asking the right questions in order to understand how you can help your client?  Going back to the basics will help set the tone.  What is the client’s problem?  Who are the individuals that can help solve this problem? Where is the client from and how does it affect the client’s strategy?  Why has the client come to you for help?  If you’ve trained your staff to ask the right questions, then congratulations on employing Good Habit #1!  By creating a client intake form with all the necessary questions your staff may ask, it helps to solidify this process into a habit.  In fact, if you already use a robust immigration case management software, integrating this step into your consultation process should be a breeze.

Good Habit #2: Documenting Your Conversations.  If you are anything like me, you probably have to write things down to remember them.  The notes you take to document client conversations allows your team members to know what happened especially when you are unavailable to explain what happened.  It helps the rest of your team operate with efficiency and knowledge and empowers them to be proactive about the case, since the notes are in plain sight for them to review.   (As an aside, it’s also a great resource when clients are unclear as to what was discussed.)  Now, the key is to also ensure that the documentation is easily retrievable and available for the necessary personnel to view.  This can be a physical file with a sheet for notes, or it can be a notes section within your client’s electronic file.

Good Habit #3: Logging Your Client Interactions.  When was the last time you followed up on a client for a list of outstanding documents?  When did you last update your client on their pending case?  Did your client make their last legal payment to your office?  How do you communicate this to other team members?  Logging your client interactions, just like documenting conversations, is one way of tracking the progress of the case.  Using a uniform system to keep track of the progress of a case is a good habit that adds value to your client’s immigration experience and keeps your organization running smoothly.  It’s also a great way to ensure your reports to stakeholders, grantors (and big C-level directors) are accurate and complete.

Good Habit #4: Enforcing a Good Habit Culture.  Enforcement is the key to ensuring that good habits stay good habits.  Now, there’s no need to play “bad cop” here.  The old cliché that it takes 21 days for a practice to turn into a habit is true, but a good habit can easily erode into a bad one.  This is where quality assurance can play an important role in ensuring that good habits remain so.  When “shortcuts” are taken on a case resulting in a lack of documentation and a log, were there extenuating circumstances or has this turned into a consistent pattern of practice?  Especially in the context of newly hired staff members, their training ultimately must include some form of quality assurance and work product review to ensure they learned and maintain good habits.

Good Habit #5: Recognition and Rewards.  Where there is enforcement, there should also be occasional recognition and reward.  This helps to reinforce why good habits benefit the team member and the entire company.  Recognition does not necessarily have to be extravagant nor do rewards have to be expensive.  Here are some practical (and cost-effective) examples:

  • Make an announcement at the beginning/end of a team meeting about who’s been diligent with their good habits and how it has benefitted the team
  • When a good habit helped to “save the day,” send a nice thank you email, note or message to the applicable team member
  • When a good habit helped to “save the day,” send a nice thank you email, note or message to the client and carbon copy the applicable team member
  • When a bad habit has been transformed into a good habit, tell that team member that you noticed and appreciate it
  • Entering our Star Paralegal Contest to recognize and reward your staff for a job well done

These good habits are directly related to how organized and diligent you and your team operate.  What other good habits have your firm or organization practiced?

Here’s a challenge to our readers.  Can you make a better list of five good habits?  If so, please send me a message and I’ll be happy to feature your list on an upcoming blog.