Archive for April, 2011

Lawyer Survey Suggests Law Education Lacks Basics For Creating Practice

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

Lawyer Survey Suggests Law Education Lacks Basics For Creating PracticeIn my national survey of lawyers the majority of respondents felt that their formal legal education had not prepared them for implementing legal theory in a business setting. Specifically, they felt they lacked the basics for creating a law practice as well as attracting and interacting with clients in order to develop their business and survive. While they indicate that some law schools are now spending time on the business side of practicing law, respondents also suggest these courses may not be deep enough, comprehensive enough, or given frequently enough.

The consensus is that a soon-to-be lawyer’s business experience needs to be early, hands on, including meeting with clients before the bar exam. It should also involve networking, volunteering, and joining business organizations while students are still attaining their formal legal education. Hands-on experience is necessary for learning communications skills, the psychology of how to interact with clients and the press, using persuasion, and implementing the law in a wide variety of social situations. One large benefit of doing this, and doing it early and often, is that it builds your confidence in a shorter period of time than otherwise. Attempting this later typically take you years of slogging through it all by yourself.

Dealing effectively with people, which is so necessary to your converting prospects to clients, often seems to be omitted from law school curriculum. When it is used, it seems it is often a one-semester course early on which is inadequate. A similar situation has occurred in medical schools where the schools have become aware that their medical students were totally ignorant of what to do in an intake interview with patients. As a result, some schools instituted a first-year course on doctor-patient communication. But now, slowly, the schools are discovering that this interpersonal skills and small talk interview course, with a workshop and peer feedback, needs to be required every year of medical school for both learning appropriate skills, gaining confidence in using them, and making them a habit. Being addressed only once early on is not particularly helpful long-term.

To paraphrase what one lawyer shared on this: Formal education (both undergraduate and graduate) taught me absolutely zero about promoting and presenting myself as an effective and authentic professional. Part of the problem is that when you are still in school, you do not yet fully realize the importance of professional marketing and of interacting with your client as a human being, not just a potential financial transaction. I have learned almost 100% of my promotion and self-presentation skills from other lawyers, other business owners, and family members. My confidence to begin to create profitable visibility and credibility for myself also began there. The upshot is that law school education as it currently stands may be completely useless, except for providing law theory, technical information, and cases. Everything that is worthwhile and works in the real world comes through post-academic experience, which is too bad.

If lawyers, in general, do not learn from their formal training how to market, interact with clients, and create and develop a business-like law practice, how do they work around that obstacle? Most said they did some self-study and figured it out on their own. They read business books and articles and tried to adapt the ideas of the authors to their practice. They realized and embraced the notion that everyone was in marketing and sales in some ways. They learned how to interact with clients from their friends and/or relatives who worked in retail or sales.

One lawyer had a B.A. in English with emphasis in journalism and creative writing that he found helpful to fill in the interpersonal skills’ gap. Another lawyer had an undergraduate degree in linguistics which helped him spot communication problems. And still another had involvement with the financial services business where he could see how to apply marketing mindsets to law practice with emphasis on being the values-based, trusted advisor.

While a formal law education cannot provide everything a practicing attorney will need, it certainly must, at the very least, lay the ground work for the basics lawyers will need to take their education on the road, to set up a practice and run it like a business, and then market and develop it in order to survive.

New Developments at the Atlanta Immigration District Office

Friday, April 22nd, 2011

New Developments at the Atlanta Immigration District OfficeWith the New Year come several immigration policy changes that are not always transparent to the immigrant population. This article will briefly highlight my recent observations of the Atlanta Immigration District Office, [hereinafter "Atlanta Office"] as it applies to permanent residence and citizenship applications.

The Atlanta Office is the local office that administers interviews for a varied number of immigration petitions. Applicants who reside in Georgia are required to appear for their interviews at this office before their case is adjudicated. During an interview it is the Immigration Officer’s duty to verify the Applicant’s information to weed out fraudulent applications. The Immigration Officer is also charged with establishing Applicant’s eligibility for the specific immigration benefit based on the current immigration laws. It is also the Immigration Officer’s duty to identify those issues that will disqualify an Applicant from receiving a specific immigration benefit. The Immigration officer is an agent of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, [hereinafter "USCIS]. As such, the Immigration Officer is bound by law to apply the law as prescribed by the United States Government.

During my recent client interviews for citizenship and permanent residence I have noticed some interesting developments in the Atlanta Office’s approach to certain cases. My first observation is specific to spousal petitions for permanent residence. Every year USCIS receives a large number of fraudulent marriage-based permanent residence petitions. As such, the Atlanta Office is on high alert for fraudulent cases. To that end the Atlanta Office is now predisposed to label an application as fraudulent if there is even a minute amount of discrepancy. Petitions in which the non-U.S citizen spouse was previously married prior to marrying his/her current U.S. citizen spouse are always deemed to be suspect. Immigration has specific guidelines regarding the authenticity of a divorce that was obtained in a foreign country. Applicants of foreign countries who have obtained customary divorces are at an increased risk of receiving a denial on their petitions for permanent residence.

My second observation regarding spousal petitions pertains to newlyweds. Immigration’s definition of a newlywed couple is any couple that has been married for less than two years. Historically, Immigration has always applied greater scrutiny to marriage-based permanent residence petitions for newlyweds. As such, newlyweds who submit their petitions are at a disadvantage because their evidentiary documents that document the validity of their relationship will be fewer in comparison to couples who have been married for several years. However, despite the inherent disadvantage, newlyweds are still able to receive approvals if certain precautions are taken. One such precaution is to present the documentation of the couple’s relationship prior their marriage. The other precaution is to hire a competent immigration attorney.

My third observation pertains to the citizenship, (naturalization) petitions. As previously discussed in my articles, some criminal convictions will disqualify an applicant from receiving citizenship or permanent residence. Some criminal convictions, for example aggravated felonies, will disqualify an Applicant and will trigger deportation proceedings. Historically non-arrest traffic citations are not offenses that would trigger an Applicant’s disqualification or deportation. However, recently the Atlanta Office has taken the policy mandate to request that Applicants bring court certified copies of all traffic citations to their interviews. As such, a failure to produce these documents could result in a denial of an Applicant’s petition despite the fact that a traffic citation for speeding has no bearing on the Applicant’s petition. Some officers have argued that an unresolved traffic citation in which the Applicant did not pay the ticket and/or appear for the court hearing could result in a warrant being issued for the Applicant’s arrest. This argument is true. However, prior to the Applicant’s interview USCIS has already obtained the Applicant’s FBI report which would clearly show the existence of any outstanding warrants on the Applicant’s case. Despite this fact, USCIS will deny an Applicant’s citizenship application for non-compliance if traffic citation documents are not submitted in a timely manner. The best recourse is to retain documents of all of your traffic citations that occurred prior to applying for citizenship. This is especially important because not all judicial jurisdictions will retain permanent records of minor traffic offenses.

My final observation relates to Applicants who have received a “deferred judgment” sentence from any court. The term “deferred judgment” has a plethora of definitions. In some instances pertaining to “deferred judgment”, the defendant must enter a plea of guilty. The case is continued for a period of time subject to certain conditions, usually including that the defendant not be convicted of another crime. If the defendant satisfies these conditions, at the end of the time period the guilty plea is considered withdrawn and no judgment of conviction or sentence is entered. In other cases, the defendant has no finding of guilt. The judgment is set-aside for a specified amount of time and the defendant must comply with any conditions given to him or her. The case can be dismissed if the defendant completes all requirements. “Deferred judgment” can be a confusing concept for non-attorneys. Likewise, Immigration Officers are usually not attorneys and they usually have limited exposure to the varied sentencing options that a criminal court may utilize in a defendant’s case. As such, Applicants who have any criminal history would be best advised to obtain immigration advice before applying for immigration benefits.

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview of Attorney Byars’ observations. This article is provided as a public service and is not intended to establish an attorney client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed.

Tips to Pass Canadian Citizenship Exam

Wednesday, April 13th, 2011

Pass Canadian Citizenship Test

Becoming a Canadian is not an easy thing. We have to pass a test first and not all people can pass the test. Not only we have to learn so many things, but also we have to prepare our mentality. One thing we have to understand is the test is not easy. There are about 130 questions we have to answer. It will be so helpful if we find out the form of the tests, so we can learn and have a good preparation.

When we are going to enroll to Canadian Citizenship Exam, make sure to seek a help by asking people who have experience on the test. They will give guide or tips, so we will get higher confidence when facing the test. We are recommended to learn a lot on the condition of Canada from the social to political aspect. Don’t forget to learn about laws that restrict citizens.

Besides learning, we should practice on this online test provided to enhance our chance to Pass Canadian Citizenship Test in the future. Through the practice, we will be able to get a clear image of what the test would be like. Where to find Citizenship Test Manitoba? We can visit Citizenquiz.ca. On the website, we will be served with all tests practice we need, so a bigger chance to be Canadian is in our hand.