Immigration Practitioners: Treat your clients to some ICE T
At a USCIS panel I attended some months ago that was held as part of the California Chapter AILA conference, a USCIS panelist introduced a new acronym to represent the Agency’s customer outreach goals in the upcoming year.
ICE T: Integrity, Consistency, Efficiency (and) Transparency
(No pun I believe was intended by the obvious reference to CIS’s sister agency, ICE.)
These attributes may not immediately spring to mind when you are waiting on hold after calling the 800 USCIS National Customer Service Center line for the third time to inquire into the status of a long pending case that has gone astray. However, it is reassuring to know that these goals have been articulated by the Agency as part of a concerted effort to provide better service and customer relations.
I believe most immigration practitioners would agree that these goals represent universal standards by which many clients hold their attorneys accountable and evaluate the effectiveness of the legal services they receive. These standards apply equally whether the client is a large corporate entity relying on your legal team’s expertise to file hundreds of NIV and IV petitions on its behalf each year, or a newlywed couple needing personalized assistance in filing their one-step Adjustment of Status application.
Let’s consider each of these standards and see how an effective electronic Case Management System (“CMS”) can help make these goals easier to achieve and maintain in your busy immigration practice:
Perhaps one of the most difficult goals to define, integrity is built over time as the client learns to rely upon your honesty and forthright analysis of how to best achieve their immigration-related benefits. Whereas no electronic system can substitute for the personal factor that builds integrity into the course of the attorney-client relationship, managing client expectations and providing essential and forthright information to the client can contribute significantly to building a relationship based on integrity. In turn, this type of timely and professional communication can be facilitated by the use of an electronic Case Management System. Whether you choose to post regular Notices or Advisories to your clients, make customized reports, or communicate confidentially and securely with your clients through a secure messaging system, there are many ways to use your CMS to expand your client outreach and demonstrate your integrity, expertise and professionalism.
Using your CMS’s Activity List feature to chart your process workflow for each type of case and adhering to that process workflow no matter which team members handles the case goes a long way towards providing your client with a consistent approach to managing their cases from intake to approval. Having the client access questionnaire templates for that process in your system and respond to standardized requests for documents will also facilitate your consistent approach. If the client has worked with your team before on a previous case, he or she will know what to expect from their previous interaction with your firm or organization and most importantly for your staff, it will be easier to successfully manage the client’s expectations of how important their role is in keeping the process moving forward. When handling a large volume of a particular type of process for a corporate client such as H-1B’s or PERM’s, your consistent approach for that process based on the framework your CMS provides will really pay off exponentially in meeting or exceeding your clients’ consistency rating.
Allowing your legal team to become more efficient in handling cases and promoting more effective management of not only your time but many of your limited resources is really the hallmark of a good CMS. Inviting clients to become active participants in their cases and log into the system to answer questionnaires or upload documentation significantly frees up time for you or your legal staff to attend to critical tasks other than data entry. The population of forms from the database or from answers to questionnaires alleviates the need to type the same data over and over on multiple forms. Completion of case notes and activity lists, allows anyone on the legal team to review the latest case status at a glance and reduces the need for lengthy in-house discussions or emails regarding case updates. System generated reminders of upcoming deadlines in conjunction with the effective use of reminder and expiration reports are great tools for efficiently setting priorities or reviewing and managing each case worker’s docket on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Practitioners who make use of these features in their CMS should see a significant reduction in the amount of time it takes to process each case leading to a similar increase in the volume of cases they are now equipped to handle. The increased efficiency achieved will be noted and appreciated by your clients resulting in a win/win situation for both your clients and your legal team.
One of the challenges of efficient case management is maintaining a fine balance between taking enough time to keep the client informed of major developments in his or her case, thereby meeting the client’s expectations for transparency, and spending too much time communicating standard details at the expense of getting bogged down with daily communications and not meeting the case turnaround deadline. Maximizing the use of the tools in your CMS can help fine tune this balance by increasing the visibility of case-related information you feel is appropriate to share with your clients but without expending significant additional resources. For example, by sharing key milestone activities on your Activity List with your Foreign Nationals or HR Representatives, they can log in and review the last major activity that was completed on their case without your team having to take the time to answer a phone call or respond to an email. Sharing reports or system generated summaries about each Foreign National with the HR Representative can be really powerful tools to providing transparency with little if any additional time investment once the templates for these reporting tools are set up. An additional benefit to relying on sharing key Activities, case notes or reports is that the client will be empowered to log into the system and find out the information he or she is seeking at a place and time when it is convenient to them and not have to wait for a returned phone call or email reply from you or your staff.
Let’s hope that USCIS will make major strides this year towards meeting their ICE T goals. As for meeting or exceeding your own team’s ICE T goals, if you have not yet been benefiting from the advantages of relying on an effective electronic Case Management System like LawLogix EDGE, make it a New Year’s Resolution to investigate how investing in a CMS may be a wise decision for your practice. If you have already been benefiting from a CMS like LawLogix EDGE, make sure your team is up to date on the latest features and tips your system offers to promote the ICE T standards. You will feel confident knowing you are on top of the latest case management technology and your clients will applaud you for being so responsive to their needs. Now, who’s ready for some Ice Tea?
Want to learn more about the latest tools and features within the LawLogix EDGE case management system that help promote ICE T? Current EDGE clients can contact Customer Support here or by calling us at 602-357-4240 ext. 2 for complete details. New clients interested in learning more about the LawLogix EDGE system can contact us here or call 602-357-4240 ext. 1. Also, please visit our website at www.lawlogix.com for general information.