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Top 5 To-Dos In Spite of Immigration Uncertainty

Immigration news in the past week has left the public wanting for more answers.  Last Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner issued a joint statement on July 10, 2013 with GOP leaders that House GOP members would not be pushed to vote on S.744, agreeing to adhere to the “Hastert Rule” instead.  What happens next with CIR now that the Speaker of the House has declined to bring S.744 up for a vote?

That same week, on July 12, 2013, Janet Napolitano announced her departure as Secretary of the Department of Homeland.  She’s been selected to become the next President of the University of California.  This may be a breath of fresh air for the state’s largest university system, but what about the Department of Homeland Security?

Napolitano’s departure in a couple of months marks another leadership vacancy that plagues DHS (45th to be exact according to one source).  This comes just a few weeks after learning USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas was nominated by President Obama to serve as DHS Deputy Secretary.

How will these changes affect immigration practitioners?  Will it be business as usual?

Until Congress figures out a way to play nice with each other, comprehensive immigration reform likely won’t materialize soon.

For starters, the general mission outlined by DHS each year will likely remain steady and unchanged.  DHS will still continue to target terrorists, enhance security, secure our borders and remove individuals who are a threat to the health or welfare of U.S. citizens and residents.  On a policy front though, practitioners shouldn’t expect to see much direction coming from the top.  Interim leaders are loathe to make significant policy shifts or changes with this much vacancy in its top ranks.

From a practical perspective though, with a slight breather from CIR, now is the perfect time to do some self-evaluation of your law practice or organization and implement those changes that have been on your To-Do list.  Here are my top five recommendations:

1.     Training:  How long does it take a new paralegal or coordinator to understand your office procedures?  If they are entry-level, what procedures do you have in place to ensure employees understand why and what it is they are learning?  How are you measuring the effectiveness of their learning?  Your senior paralegals who provide training can help you optimize your training procedures.

2.     Technology: Are you using software to manage your caseload, collect and corral all your client data and to alert you to impending expirations?  If not, you might be missing out.  Learn more here.  If you are implementing a case management software, maybe it’s time to see if there might be opportunities to optimize your software.  Is it configured the way that works best for your office?  Are your employees using the software to maximize productivity or is it hindering their work?  What training programs make sense?

3.     Marketing:  While word of mouth referrals from happy clients are always a hopeful strategy, the most effective organizations put some effort into promoting their services to the community and to clients.  What makes your services unique?  Do you offer multi-lingual services?  Or do you specialize with certain immigrant groups?  By all means, let that be known.  Check out these other tips on marketing for immigration service providers.

4.     Feedback: Whether you want to call it a performance review or just informal feedback, employees need it to help them improve, where improvement is needed, and to understand what value they bring to the organization.  When was the last time your direct reports had one-on-one meetings with you to discuss their progress, contributions and goals?  Once a year is simply not enough if you want to ensure your employees are engaged for the long haul, especially if/when CIR does come around!

5.     Revamping Templates:  With summer heavily upon us and many clients busy enjoying vacation time, now is a good time to review your working templates to see which ones deserve to be refreshed.  These can include email templates, retainer agreements, case status update letters, documentation requests, payment reminders, etc.