While you’re in law school, there are essentially two routes laid out for your law firm career path: joining an established law firm, or starting your own. For this discussion, let’s leave aside other practice environments such as government employment or the non-profit sector. Typically, most lawyers start with an internship in a firm to gain experience and get an idea of the niche they want to specialize in - including immigration. After that comes the decision to either stay in the law firm environment or go off on their own.
If you do decide to start your own firm, regardless of your level of experience, approaching your immigration law firm venture with the right business mindset is extremely important to your future success. That’s our focus in this article.
How can you benefit from working with a mentor? How can you grow by focusing on a niche? How can you succeed by using marketing to give value to your clients? What is the importance of always being creative? And why is it worth investing in yourself and your business, even if you can’t see the benefits right away?
Most law schools won’t teach you these business mindset traits, but they can make a significant difference in how things play out, so let’s dive in.
Mentors are a fast track to lessons and experience that otherwise may take years, or decades, to learn on your own, so find and leverage a good mentor or mentors as you get started and throughout your career.
State bar associations have seen an increased interest in mentorship programs for lawyers, and veteran lawyers see them as an opportunity to continue building a sense of connection to the profession as it evolves. “What you are going to learn is what I had to learn the hard way, both professionally and personally”, says Doug Ashworth, a coordinator of the State Bar of Georgia’s mentoring program.
A mentor can help you find opportunities in the profession, apply their lessons and experiences while you are building your own career, develop your leadership skills, and even share your own knowledge in areas where your mentor may need help, like new technology skills.
Look for a mentor who has weathered changes and is enthusiastic about sharing their knowledge and experiences with you. There’s no shortage of immigration policy changes today, and mentors are a great way to learn the professional expectations of everyday practice, whether you’re just getting started with your own firm or have been running a practice for some time and want to take things to the next level.
It’s tempting as a new immigration lawyer to think that it would be better to offer the greatest possible variety of services to appeal to a bigger client base, but it may actually be more effective and growth-oriented to build your knowledge and experience in a specific niche within immigration law, especially if you’re starting out as a solo practitioner or very small practice. To decide on your niche, think about your goals and personal values, including the workload you want to have, the type of cases you want to deal with, and whether there are agencies or departments tied to the immigration system that you’d rather (or rather not) work with, such as the Department of Labor, or the immigration court system.
And if you’re concerned about cornering yourself into just a handful of potential clients, don’t be - there are two ways in which having a niche is a net positive in the immigration law field:
Other than working with clients and building a track record of success in your niche, you establish yourself as an expert by sharing what you know consistently to an online audience.
Share your knowledge as much as you can through actionable content that people can understand and connect to. The actionable content could be articles in a blog or newsletter, posts, comments, or livestreaming on a social network, a presentation at a community event or a guest appearance on a podcast. Considering all the different (and often free) platforms available nowadays, sharing what you know is easier than ever.
Why is this so important? Not only will a consistent and clear content presence on the internet make you easier to find for potential clients who search for answers that you may have (e.g., “what are the best visa options for chess masters?”), it will also help you establish yourself as an attorney who is committed to helping people, as an expert in your niche, and as a person who has your clients’ best interests at heart.
2020 and 2021 saw lockdowns, border closures, executive orders, travel bans and restrictions, and of course, COVID. With all of those challenges, many at once, some immigration lawyers questioned whether they would be able to work at all and make it through this time. But with these lockdowns and closures came a shift to a more online-based business model, and many lawyers started to find new opportunities.
From litigation against the federal government due to the restrictions affecting clients to virtual consultations to reach new clients, these unexpected changes opened new ways for many immigration lawyers to survive, and in some cases thrive.
So if you’re a new immigration lawyer, or even an experienced one, approach your work and the situations that surround it with creativity and a mindset focused on seeing opportunities that allow you to withstand challenges as you go. Because the skills you will need to succeed as a lawyer go beyond knowing statutes and regulations - your law firm is also a business, and finding solutions to market challenges, working well with changed circumstances, and handling pressure in a way that lets your creative problem solving take shape in practice, is key to success.
According to the Census Bureau, 99% of businesses in the US are small businesses, and about two-thirds of all jobs are in small businesses. But small businesses often have small budgets, which makes it hard to make investments in the business and lose money today even if those investments promise greater returns and success in the future.
But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Yes, it can be hard to look at the cost of, say, new tech tools that can help your business grow when you’re getting started or when you’ve been chugging along at a certain pace and you can’t even imagine that level of growth yet. It can be hard to justify adding thousands to your marketing budget when that means thousands less in your pocket at the end of each month. It may seem like a bad idea to hire contractors or freelancers to help you with something you can do today in your business, though you know that keeps you from spending your time getting more clients.
But the time you could save by hiring a freelance or full-time staff member to help with administrative tasks, or the efficient management of your caseload with a tech tool is all but guaranteed to make the investment worth it. Investing in your business, and yourself as a business owner, can help give you back the time, and often peace of mind, to work on expanding your client base, building a larger following, and growing your business.
When you’re getting started, and as your immigration law firm grows, streamlining your caseload and keeping each of your clients’ timelines in one place is key. Docketwise can help you streamline and digitize your practice so that you can spend more of your time working on your immigration law firm, not in it, and applying your legal knowledge to achieve the most positive outcome possible for your clients.
If you want to learn more about how Docketwise can help you streamline your practice — from client questionnaires to form-filling to case management and more — schedule a demo to talk to one of our team members.
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