5 Secrets of Successful Immigration Practice Organizations
Over the past decade, I’ve been fortunate enough to witness, firsthand, how top immigration organizations achieve and maintain their success. These include private immigration boutique law practices, large international law firms with immigration practice departments, non-profit organizations, as well as large enterprises with internal immigration departments. In the last year, LawLogix has offered various free immigration practice webinars to help practitioners stay organized, efficient and profitable (or accountable to grantors). Based on the advice given by our expert panelists and my observations from speaking with many attorneys and organization directors, there are definitely secrets to their success. Today, we highlight the five secrets of successful immigration practice organizations.
Using a Case Management System
Immigration law is uniquely different from any other type of law practice because of the way the practice is driven by form completion, support documentation, and government-derived deadlines rather than client-driven deadlines. To manage the deadlines, complete the forms, assemble the petition/application packages, and retain all client data, successful practitioners have traditionally opted for case management software. Organizations who increasingly need to manage their client data in a robust database have been steadily upgrading from a basic forms program to a robust system like the EDGE Immigration Case Management System. The migration to a case management system makes perfect sense because of the increasing need to organize data in a centralized system of records. You can access your tasks, your deadlines, your reminders, send emails, check on case status, and create case forms, draft briefs, and send/receive client invoices (and more) all in one central location. When efficiency and centralizing data are critical to organizational productivity, relying on multiple software is no longer a cost-effective alternative.
Part of an efficient law practice involves the use of templates. Templates allow organizations to prepare correspondence and immigration applications that have been proven to be successful in achieving results. The beauty of templates is that they can tailored to each specific immigration case or client type and integrated with a robust case management system.
Along with templates, implementing standardized procedures serve three primary functions. It establishes uniform expectations in which staff members can prepare cases. New employees, temps, and interns will significantly benefit where there is a standardized procedure in place (especially codified procedures). Also, at each review interval, whether it’s quarterly, mid-year or year-end, employees can be objectively measured by how well they execute standardized procedures. Lastly, standardized procedures help to ensure your client interaction is smooth and consistent. If your staff understands the procedures and consistently carries out those procedures, then your clients will likely receive consistent, excellent service.
Accurate, Follow-Thorough Billing/Costs
One of the most important aspects of running a successful private law practice or non-profit legal organization is accurately accounting for revenue. For any legal organization, revenue, whether it’s derived from client legal fees and/or grants, must be sufficient to meet payroll and other operating expenses. For non-profit organizations, accounting for a positive revenue flow is especially important for the future when funding may be limited or slow to a trickle. What mechanisms do you have in place to help ensure that legal fees are collected in a reasonable manner and time?
Successful practices strategically cultivate their expertise in immigration law. These organizations don’t provide immigration service for all aspects of immigration law but rather, they focus on honing the areas they do know, and slowly venturing into areas in which there is much to learn. Two prime examples are EB-5 and DACA. EB-5 investment visas come in a variety of sizes and shapes. There are tax implications, securities issues, and traditional business concepts that can be very complex. Expanding a law practice in this area requires significant time to get up to speed with the law. Another example is DACA. Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals is probably one of the biggest (if not the biggest) immigration event of 2012. Having written about this new process, it’s apparent there are multiple criminal issues an immigration practitioner can encounter. Practitioners who excel in their practice do so by taking on new areas of practice slowly, or by partnering (or hiring) staff members who have the requisite experience to help the organization get up to speed.
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So there you have it, the Top Five! Did any of these make your list of successful practice tips? What else would you add? Please send us your comments below.