The COVID-19 pandemic launched millions of professionals around the world into the world of remote work, and with that came a long-overdue remote work revolution for the legal industry. Many lawyers and legal professionals that may have not considered the possibility to work remotely were suddenly forced to do so, and, as a consequence, realized that practicing law remotely may not be that far-fetched of an idea.
And while it’s still up in the air to what extent lawyers and law firms more generally will continue to be fully remote, it's important for lawyers, especially immigration lawyers, to know HOW to practice remotely.
Why especially immigration law firms?
Given that immigration is a federal practice, it’s already the case that immigration law firms take cases from all over the country. Many lawyers who practice entirely in the field of immigration actually have their office in, or make appearances in, state(s) other than that in which they are licensed. Moreover, there are a number of US immigration lawyers practicing US immigration law from locations abroad. Nevertheless, despite rarely, if ever, seeing many of their clients in person, most immigration lawyers were historically working out of physical offices. It was a situation that begged the question whether the business could be done remotely.
Now, even as some lawyers go back into the office, if you’re thinking about staying fully remote or even partially remote, setting up the right remote work environment is the key to success.
This article discusses the merits of running a remote law firm and some tools and processes to explore if you want to do so successfully.
Let’s dive in.
3 Major Benefits of Running a Remote Immigration Law Firm
What legal professionals have noticed thanks to the experience of working virtually during the pandemic is that there are benefits to a remote practice that are worth considering.
Thanks to the growth in tools and tech to streamline legal work, the work of legal professionals has become more location-flexible than ever. If working from anywhere is something that you have learned to enjoy during the past year and a half, going fully remote can be an attractive option.
Unless your state requires you to have a physical space to practice (check your state bar rules), the most obvious cost reduction when you go remote is not having to pay for permanent office space and equipment. Going remote also allows you to reduce costs in support staff by outsourcing to professionals such as virtual paralegals and receptionists.
Access to a larger talent pool
Hiring in the immigration space has always been a national exercise since a licensed attorney in any state can practice immigration in any other state. However, not all attorneys are willing to move. Having a remote practice means you can hire from anywhere in the country without asking the candidate to move to wherever you’re located. This makes it easier to find the right candidate and eliminates the cost of relocation.
If the above benefits sound interesting to you, great. But how do you actually make a virtual immigration law practice work? In other words, what tools or processes should you consider or adopt to succeed in a remote environment?
Here are 7 basic things you should have to successfully run a remote immigration law firm.
For immigration lawyers who are looking to go remote, especially those starting their own firms, let’s go through some of the most important things you’ll need for success.
- An updated website. In this day and age, a website would be obvious to most lawyers, but you’d be surprised how many lawyers, especially those early in their career, operate without a website. Others were caught by surprise by COVID and went into lockdown without a proper or up-to-date online presence. A modern and easy-to-use website is simply essential if your immigration law firm is going virtual. If you’re technically inclined you can build a simple website with premade templates on sites like Weebly, Squarespace or Wordpress. If you’d like to outsource this task, finding a marketing or web development agency, especially one that works with law firms (even better if they focus on immigration lawyers), is the way to go.
- Email addresses. Again, another seemingly obvious one that, nevertheless, needs to be called out. Lawyers who are just getting started and might not have a website, or are in the process of creating one, might not have a specific email address for their legal services. Using an email service, whether through your domain provider or an email service like Outlook or Gmail, allows you to have an official email address rather than asking clients to email “PunkRocker85@Hotmail.com” - believe it or not, this still happens. Additionally, you can create alias email addresses like “info@” or “questions@” to organize your emails and, in some cases, add some more legitimacy to your firm’s image.
- A phone number. No, this doesn’t mean you have to give our your personal cell number to clients and prospects, although many attorneys still do. Instead, you can use a VoIP service like RingCentral, Vonage or Phone.com to set up a dedicated phone number for your firm. These Voice over IP services forward calls to your cell phone but without giving away your private number. This is especially important for family-based practitioners whose clients might be most comfortable talking about their immigration case over the phone.
- Video conferencing. Given that you’re not running a brick-and-mortar office anymore, your clients want to at least see your face when talking to your about their case, even if remotely. Using a video conferencing tool like Zoom, Google Meet, Webex, Microsoft Teams or others is a great way to connect personally without being in person. If using Google or Microsoft, for example, for your domain, email service, etc., you can access Meet and Teams as part of the whole suite. Some of these services will also offer transcription services so you can automatically record and get notes from client calls. If they don’t, however, you check out our recommended transcription services.
- Social Media. This is more on the marketing side, but if you have a remote law firm, your marketing should be digital as well. There are a lot of best practices when it comes to digital marketing for immigration attorneys, but one major piece of advice when you’re just getting started is to pick one social media platform and focus on it, at least at first. Here’s a breakdown of the different platforms, based on the type of law firm you might operate.\ \ For family-based immigration law firms, a focus on Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok is a good idea. Facebook Groups are an especially good way to connect with specific communities of both lawyers and prospective clients and offer support both ways. Instagram offers a diversity of video-based tools for long and short form content (IGTV and Reels) as well as captioned pictures. And TikTok is quickly becoming a go-to for quick Q&A and niche-based communities in the immigration space.\ \ For employment-based and other business immigration law firms, LinkedIn and YouTube are best, especially when it comes to establishing yourself as an expert in your area of focus and connecting with your target clients, be they investors, entrepreneurs or HR departments.
- Growth tools. Fully remote firms are great for solos, but you can grow your team and remain fully remote too! This means hiring staff that’s fully remote and equipping them with the tools. For internal communication, tools like Slack, Trello, or Microsoft Teams are important to keep everyone on the same page and ensure tasks are assigned and completed in a timely manner. You can find employees by looking on virtual paralegal or receptionist sites, and of course can always advertise job openings on traditional sites like Indeed.com or monster.com.
- Case management. The ABA’s eLawyering Task Force stipulates that as part of keeping their work remote, a law firm needs to use a secure portal for clients and lawyers to access and collaborate. This portal has to be secure, encrypted, and require a username and password to log in. Choosing a case management platform with a secure client portal can help you fulfill this requirement while also managing your practice electronically and in the cloud instead of with paper client files, documentation and applications.
At the end of the day, if your remote law firm is going to be successful, you need the right tools, processes and mindset to work in a remote environment. Your firm’s cases should be accessible everywhere and to everyone via a cloud-based platform. That’s why it’s important to have a robust all-in-one immigration case management platform.
And that’s what we’re building at Docketwise.
Docketwise is the case management platform you need for your virtual immigration law firm to succeed.
Our main goal at Docketwise is to help immigration lawyers do what they do best - focus on doing great work for their clients while knowing that the rest of their practice is streamlined, automated and digitized. Docketwise can help you streamline and digitize your practice so that you can spend more of your time applying your legal knowledge to achieve the most positive outcome possible for your immigration law 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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