Almost every immigration lawyer knows their “why” when it comes to being in the industry - helping people. Perhaps it’s because they or a family member immigrated to the United States. Perhaps it’s because they have seen firsthand the positive impact timely and knowledgeable help can have in people’s lives. Rarely is money the reason immigration lawyers get into the industry.
Sometimes this leads to ignoring the financial realities of successfully practicing as an immigration lawyer, offering rates that are too low, or just not feeling comfortable discussing money at all. However it’s important to consider in a sober and unemotional way what low rates can mean, such as creating a situation where you are overworking to make ends meet, being unable to pay for additional staff or necessary software, or worse, worrying about your own financial well-being. As you can imagine, this can ultimately result in your clients not getting the best version of you.
So in this article, we’re discussing the issue of money mindset for immigration lawyers. Whether it’s undercharging, feeling uncomfortable with raising your rates, or simply not knowing how to scale your services in order to be more financially secure, adopting the right money mindset can determine whether your immigration practice succeeds or fails.
When you consider that, according to a study in 2015, money is the biggest stressor for people, the importance of cultivating a healthy relationship with money becomes apparent. Money is tied to every person’s basic needs and our most primal feelings, such as feeling secure and shaping our sense of belonging amongst our peers and in society in general.
Moreover, the negative effects of worrying about money not only cause stress in your personal life and relationships, but also may affect your productivity at work. As an immigration lawyer, you know that in order to offer the best service, you have to be at your best. If you’re worried, in the back of your mind, that your firm is not making enough to support itself, that stress may seep through to your work and, in the long run, affect your current work product and future growth, ultimately perpetuating the cycle of anxiety over money.
One of the simplest ways of ensuring your firm’s income meets your expectations and adequately compensates your work is to price your services appropriately. Since you’re in control of your rates, it’s part of your management responsibilities to adjust your fees to ensure you’re not undercharging. Let’s go over how you can go through the process of either establishing, raising, or adjusting your fees.
The two main levers you can pull to increase your law firm’s income are to charge more for existing work or take on more work, or some combination of the two. Let’s look at a few ways you can approach these two sides of the same coin.
Adding higher-priced services gives you the option of increasing your revenue with new offerings while keeping your current prices with existing services. This way you can continue working with your current client base at the rates you currently feel comfortable with while developing a new client base that needs and can pay for your new, higher-priced services. While there are many options of higher-priced services you can offer, and this list is by no means complete or exhaustive, a few examples may include working on PERM, EB-5, O-1 or EB-1A business immigration cases. Outside of the business immigration context, more complicated removal or asylum cases, or family-based cases with non-routine complications justify higher fees than straightforward cases of the same type. And if you’re a family-based immigration lawyer and don’t currently offer any business immigration services, check out our blog on getting started with business immigration to explore ways you can expand your practice.
All businesses have to adjust their pricing from time to time. In these inflationary times we’re seeing businesses raise prices across industries, so it makes sense to adjust your rates as your costs rise, too. The other reason raising your rates in small increments over time makes sense is because ultimately, money represents compensation for your time, your knowledge and your experience. As you become more knowledgeable and experienced, it’s fair to regularly raise your rates, even if slightly, to account for that depth of knowledge and experience. Be sure to communicate your price increases with enough time and through all your communication channels, explain to your existing clients when any increases will apply and otherwise be transparent and understanding.
By raising your rates dramatically and appropriately marketing your services to prospective clients who may be able to pay those rates, your law firm can make more money doing the type of work you’re already doing now. It’s common for professionals to not feel like they “deserve” to get paid a certain amount or be afraid that raising their rates dramatically can hurt their business by scaring clients away, but it’s been shown that raising prices can actually be good for marketing, including for immigration attorneys. And if you want to continue to service clientele that may not be able to pay your new, considerably higher fees, consider this: you can potentially now offer those services at perhaps even lower rates, or pro bono, since your newly increased revenue can offset that work. This way you can both have the ability to make more money by charging more to your new client base while being even more accessible to current clients who may not be able to pay.
Immigration attorneys often offer payment plans, which make their services more accessible. Part of the reality of offering payment plans, however, is that some percentage of your clients may take longer than you’ve planned to pay you back, thus leaving you with less cash on hand than you expected, or may not fully pay you back at all, leaving you to foot part of their bill. With that in mind, if you offer payment plans and experience some of these issues, consider revisiting your payment plan terms and figure out ways to make them less risky for your firm. For example, ask clients to pay more up front or set them up with electronic payment processing to ensure you get paid on time.
Once you start generating more revenue by raising or adjusting your rates, you’ll be able to invest that revenue into growing your team and your client base. If you do, having a case management system that supports that growth is crucial.
At Docketwise, our robust CRM, full immigration forms library, easy-to-use client questionnaires and industry-leading API integrations helps you stay up-to-date on your growing immigration caseload, communicate easily with all your clients, and otherwise build and manage your law firm’s growth and evolution.
If you want to learn more about Docketwise, schedule a demo at the link below, or sign up for our Immigration Briefings newsletter for daily and weekly immigration updates!