Law school provides little in the way of education concerning the managerial and business side of legal practice. One result is that when immigration lawyers want to eventually launch their own practice, many get stuck.
Starting and running an immigration law firm is, in the most basic sense, starting and running a business. And with that comes the need for guidance, mentorship, and the right attitude to help you thrive in a competitive field. Having the appetite to take risks, approaching situations from a perspective of learning, seeing opportunities in challenging situations, and overcoming self-limiting beliefs are all part of a mindset for success.
In this article we’ll look into four important business mindsets immigration lawyers should have to successfully run or grow their firms that law schools don't teach.
The word “failure” can sound scary. Thinking about the possibility of “failing” in the immigration law context immediately brings to mind a worst-case scenario where your client finds themselves having to appeal a decision, face a visa denial for an employee they’re expecting, in removal proceedings, etc.
But this isn’t the only way immigration lawyers can “fail” in their practice - you can also fail in ways that won’t hurt your clients but can teach you something about your business. You may be “failing” if you’re struggling to bring in enough clients, or if you can’t get clients with specific types of cases you’re trying to add to your practice. You might land a client for their H-1B but then “fail” to have them come back to you for their Green Card application. You might spend thousands of dollars on a marketing campaign and “fail” to see any return on your investment.
When facing failures, there are two ways you can react:
Failure, big or small, is part of being an entrepreneur. The better prepared you are to face it, the better off you will be in moving forward. To prepare yourself for failure without being paralyzed by constantly expecting things to go wrong, adopt these habits:
In the same way in which legal education largely focuses on the application of rules and procedures, business education often focuses on how to achieve the best results and maximize your firm’s performance and rate of success. But what we’ve seen in the past two years is that systems are fragile, and the environments where we work can be unpredictable.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, lawyers in the immigration field faced extended closures of USCIS field offices, embassies and consulates abroad, and overnight changes in DHS regulation. There are always things that are outside of your control, but there are times, like during the pandemic, where the key to success is on how well you can work around challenges and bounce back. For example, think about what happened at your firm when offices were forced to close in the spring of 2020. How did you communicate with your clients? How quickly were you able to be up and running from the home environment? How much would you say you struggle to adapt to a new working environment, not only in terms of workspace, but also in adjusting to the changes in processing times?
When so much is out of your control, shift your focus from performance to resilience. Think of resilience as “the capacity to absorb stress, recover critical functionality, and thrive in altered circumstances”. In other words, how do you keep going when the waters are at their roughest? How do you make your firm more resilient?
You can’t control other people’s actions, and you certainly can’t control the pace at which USCIS works or the decisions DHS makes. Think about how your firm will operate sustainably through changing circumstances and how the resilience you build through your daily actions can help your firm grow and sustain itself in the long term.
Being a lawyer, especially an immigration lawyer, probably means you’re more risk-averse than the average entrepreneur. But calculated risks, and the understanding that taking risks is part of growth, can expand your perspective on what’s possible for your law firm.
For many, fear of risk is closely tied to fear of failure out of the belief that the greater the risk, the greater the possibility of failure. Cultivating a growth mindset can help you overcome, even if only to an extent, your fear of risks.Taking a risk could look like starting a social media campaign on TikTok to reach new potential family immigration clients despite not feeling comfortable on camera, or spending thousands of dollars to go to a conference in your specific business immigration industry niche without knowing whether it's going to be worth it. Without those risky moves, you can't grow.
Yes, you might feel a bit embarrassed about the idea of being on TikTok, but if your video gets 10,000 views and you land a few new clients, might it be worth it? If you spend $1,500 on an industry conference and land a new small corporate client that wants you to handle all their H-1B visas and Green Cards, might that be worth it? Risk is important for growth!
Everyone that you on social media who seems effortlessly confident had a first video or post that they were scared to post at the time, and everyone who confidently walks around conferences and knows everyone went to their first conference years ago and knew no one.
Everybody starts somewhere, and there’s no better day than today.
Getting clients through word of mouth is great, and many immigration lawyers have built substantial practices that way. But if you want more than that, it's important to realize that you have to reach out to your prospective clients proactively as well, even if the thought of it feels scary or uncomfortable. There are lots of ways to get started, like contacting your existing network and community to collect email addresses through free valuable content, utilizing an email campaign or newsletter, speaking at industry events, and more.
If you want to work with a high volume employment immigration client, for example, it’s unlikely that they will reach out to you randomly, like through a Google search. Which means if you want that kind of client, you will likely have to figure out a way to reach out personally. This might include attending networking events (virtually or in-person) the client might be attending, sharing valuable content targeting the client on more professional social media platforms like LinkedIn, and showcasing your results to establish yourself as an effective immigration lawyer any other way you can.
We’ve focused a lot on the importance of developing a mindset for growth that focuses on adapting to change, reflecting on what can be improved, and moving forward. If you’re committed to applying these mindset tips and growing as a professional each day, you need a system to manage your cases that can be a constant, reliable go-to in the midst of any changes.
Thanks to our client relationship management tools that consolidate all client information and communication, case management tools that streamline form-filling, case status, billing, and communication, and more, you can focus your energy on growing your immigration law practice.