Immigration law in the United States is federal subject matter, which opens up opportunities for immigration lawyers to take clients outside of their home states, either from time to time through referrals or other opportunities, or by running a remote immigration law practice.
If that possibility is intriguing to you, or you’re already running a remote immigration law firm, consider this: What if you could run your immigration law firm from anywhere in the world? Since the COVID-19 pandemic, more and more professionals started to work remotely — both freelancers and employees — countries have developed various visa schemes as a response, particularly digital nomad visa programs, to attract those remote workers to their countries and allow them to work there lawfully.
The exciting news is that immigration lawyers can be part of that mix. So if you’re practicing US immigration law today and considering becoming a digital nomad while continuing to run your practice, this article covers two important points you should consider before packing your bags and becoming a digital nomad immigration lawyer. Let’s jump in.
Some tools you need to run a successful virtual immigration law practice
First, let’s look at four groups of tools you’ll need to successfully run a remote immigration law practice.
These will be especially important if you have team members, whether full-time or contractors. Whether you have a team of lawyers working with you, any administrative staff, or work with other remote workers, such as a virtual assistant, some efficient communication tools are necessary. A few to consider, if you don’t have them already, are Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Google Chat. These allow you to work with others from different locations and easily share files, search through and maintain conversations, and more.
Client intake tools
When it comes to client intake tools, one of the most important questions you should consider is how easy the tool makes it to capture client information. If you’re in the beginning stages of your practice, a client intake tool could be as simple as a Google Form where you ask clients for specific information in order to initiate or continue to work on their immigration case. If you’re in another part of the world and potentially in a different time zone, you need to make sure the process of information gathering is simple and straightforward so that you don’t end up in a back-and-forth email exchange trying to get information but rely on easy-to-use software to move things along. If you already use Docketwise, for example, you can customize client intake questionnaires when you’re onboarding clients and thus make things easier for everyone involved.
Video chat tools
Having the ability to talk to your clients in a more personable way, especially when you’re halfway around the world and can’t meet in person, helps keep your client relationships strong and adds a sense of personal connection even from afar. Connecting with your clients through video can show them that you’re there for them and committed to the successful completion of their case. You may already have a tool like Google Meet, Microsoft Teams (linked above), or Zoom as part of your tech stack, but you may also consider phone apps like WhatsApp if you already use them for your business.
Remember that maintaining a trust-based relationship with your clients will not only lead to a positive experience for them, which can lead to referrals and even a client returning to work with you for their next step in their immigration journey. For a better understanding on nurturing client relationships for the longer term, check out our past article on Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Document sharing tools.
As a Docketwise user, you can share and upload documents to your clients’ case files within the client Portal, but you can also use other tools in your tech stack like Google Docs or Dropbox. Pro tip: depending on your client load, you may want to check how much storage space these services provide in their free versions and look into additional storage plans if you have a high volume of documents
Complying with local laws as a digital nomad lawyer
In addition to ensuring you have all the tools you need to practice immigration law from any location, you also need to ensure you comply with the laws of the country where you will be setting up shop. Here are some things you should keep in mind when it comes to looking at local laws when trying to work in other parts of the world. Please do note that this is not an exhaustive list of requirements to practice law as a digital nomad.
- Limitations or ethical obligations based on your state bar’s rule: It’s possible that your state bar has specific rules regarding practicing while not physically present in your state, or other rules about maintaining your license in good standing. Always be sure to check your state bar rules if you aren’t sure of the implications of a business decision, especially one as big as practicing law outside the US.
- Work visas and local taxes: You should also check to see what laws or policies you need to keep in mind regarding working in a different country, especially if you run your own US immigration law practice, and whether you’re subject to local income taxes. One question could be whether offering services as a US immigration lawyer might be considered unauthorized practice by the foreign jurisdiction if you are not also licensed there. We also suggest consulting with an international tax advisor before you move in order to understand the implications of running a business abroad, and particularly as immigration attorneys, you should make sure to be aware of work, digital nomad or other visa requirements wherever you decide to go.
- Proof of income as a visa requirement: Some countries require showing proof of income from a foreign source to show their new home authorities that they can support themselves without taking a local job. Examples of that include Malta, Brazil, and the United Arab Emirates. Having access and insight into your law firm’s finances and streamlining your client payment process is extremely helpful to see, and thus be able to provide, your financials if needed. For Docketwise users, integrations with Quickbooks and LawPay gives you quick access to your firm’s financials in one place.
Join a digital nomad community before you set off
Social media platforms like Facebook and Reddit have groups and threads focused on the digital nomad and expatriate lifestyle. Joining one of them, based on a specific location or your professional field can give you an idea of what to expect when it comes to balancing having a flexible location and practicing immigration law and allow you to potentially make friends or meet colleagues wherever you go so you don’t feel alone on your global journey. Working remotely is a dream for many people around the world, but that doesn’t mean it’s without its own challenges. Leverage resources and communities that already exist to make the process easier for you so that you can enjoy living around the world while building your immigration law practice!
Docketwise is the best immigration case management system for location-independent attorneys
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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