Immigration Practice News

October 2012 (Vol. 4, No. 1)

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Running Your Law Office Remotely W by Ruby L. Powers the Law Office of Ruby L. Powers, had been up and running for a year and a half. I was suddenly faced with the challenge of managing my Houston law practice from overseas. I had not yet signed an office lease and my overhead was already low, so I immediately focused on making my office as portable as possible and concentrating on an area of law that required little in-person contact. ith two months notice, my husband informed me that he wanted to move to and work in Dubai. At the time, my practice, I set up a part-time assistant in an executive suite office in Houston, opened a Skype account for continual international communication with my assistant and clients, utilized Dropbox, the online file sharing system, and purchased a ScanSnap scanner for each of us. To cover in-person client interaction, I hired contract attorneys to attend client interviews and master hearings. I also made regular visits to my Houston office every six months. The time difference between Dubai and Houston presented a challenge. However, I scheduled myself to be available in the US morning hours and conducted Skype and telephone appointments with clients during those hours. To ensure a quick turn-around response time and avoid any significant gap in communication, I checked my e-mail early each morning in Dubai, which was the end of day in the U.S. The normal work week in Dubai is Sundays through Thursdays which allowed me to offer appointments on Sundays in the U.S. This proved to be very popular as it was convenient for many clients who worked Monday through Friday in the United States. Eventually, all of my in-person activities became digitized. There were no more trips to the bank or post office! I operated solely online: banking, postage printing, and credit card payments; I even held my consultations via Skype. In fact, I reduced overhead and became more efficient. I went on to record three CLEs via Skype: one for AILA's DC Open House and two for LawLine, used the platform to conduct telephonic hearings, and held countless consultations. I made the most of my two visits back to Houston and held as many in-person consultations and meetings with existing clients as possible. And although I definitely saw a higher conversion rate of retaining clients by in-person consultations as opposed to electronic consultations, I still managed to maintain a steady stream of business remotely. It worked especially well during the deferred action rush in August 2012. Applicants were usually under 31 years of age and were comfortable with phone and Skype consultations. Against all odds, and despite the nine-to-10 hour time difference between Houston and Dubai, running my law office remotely has worked. My practice has grown and I have remotely hired three full-time assistants without having met them. I held the interviews via Skype and also had my first assistant help me screen applicants. I am now back in Houston a┼┐ter 14 months SCAN WITH SCANSNAP SHARE FILES ON DROPBOX VISIT EVERY 6 MONTHS KEEP IN TOUCH WITH SKYPE abroad and in the process of moving my entire staff into a larger office. Running a practice remotely is possible, and I am continually talking with other attorneys to compare notes on various versions of virtual offices. I am proud that I was able to keep my business alive through an unexpected change that would have convinced many to close. Becoming efficient, digital and paperless were key to my office' to grow my office, despite being a 16-hour flight away. Ruby L. Powers dedicates her firm to all areas of immigration law with a focus on I-601 waivers. She speaks Spanish and French. Her office is located in Houston, Texas. www.aila.org 4 s survival. Digital technologies enabled me

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