I hate to admit that I'm old enough to have used a Palm Pilot in the 90's. One of the first pocket-sized gadgets that tracked your contacts, notes and to-do lists and synced to your computer. When they later came out with the Palm Treo, a Palm Pilot and cell phone, well, I was ecstatic and had to get it! I really believe that was the start of my love for tech gadgets. Much later I would become an iPhone, iPad and Apple Watch addict, even though I would never, ever use a Mac computer, I love my Windows PC too much!
But my love for computing didn't always start well. During my second year at York University in Toronto, I tried my hand at a computer course. Being a major in Economics I thought it would be a good complement. I was wrong. We learned the programming language, SAS, and we used punch cards! Yes, those cards you created with the code and then ran them through the gigantic computer! I spent endless nights in the computer lab perfecting my cards, but I never could get it right. I'm embarrassed to admit I failed the course and at that time developed a severe dislike for anything to do with computer programming.
When I first started working in the immigration law field it was 2005 and I knew nothing at all about immigration. I was a Canadian marketing executive, hired by a U.S. immigration attorney to run his high-volume practice. I came on a TN Visa as a Marketing Consultant (that's another story) and tackled the job. I soon realized that his archaic method of tracking everything on paper just wasn't working for the hundreds of cases we had. I set up Excel spreadsheets which drove me even crazier and never got updated properly. I then asked our IT guy to design a system for us. It was 15 years ago and he designed us a customized law office app - it tracked case status, client info, payments, and everyone could log in to enter notes and tasks. It was a dream app. Looking back at this now, I can feel proud that I recognized the need for this and it made the office so much more efficient and productive. Clio launched three years later in 2008, but I wasn't even paying attention, we had our own system.
Years later when I became a lawyer and launched my own solo practice in 2015, I knew exactly what I wanted. My dream was to develop a fully automated office, but I just had to find the perfect combo of apps. Hence my journey of experimentation. I tried out Tracker, eImmigration, Smokeball, MyCase, Law Lab, and lots more. I finally settled on Clio with Prima Facie. I then added Lexicata for CRM and AlphaDrive for Clio documents. After 2 years of this I felt like I was drowning in apps, and my budget was feeling it, but I told myself, they all sync together and I need all of them! Hence my next search: a better, cheaper all-in-one system. I then took a leap of faith and migrated all my Clio data to Practice Panther and dropped Lexicata and Alpha Drive (still using Prima Facie for forms). My budget breathed a sigh of relief. I'm still searching for that fabulous do-everything app. in the past few years, programs featuring immigration forms together with practice management are launching faster than I can check them out! I've looked at Camp Legal, AI Law, Fast Visa, Docketwise, and more. The verdict? They all have flaws, but they all are fixing things quickly. I've spent hours talking to the developers to suggest improvements and they are very willing to adapt. The future looks very promising for us immigration attorneys as we leverage these tech tools in our practice.
This is what led me to launch TIP Lawyers, Technology for Immigration Law Practitioners. A resource and a service to help you figure out what apps you need and what they can do for you. I can't wait to connect and share my knowledge and experience as I continue on my tech journey for the perfect app combo! It may never exist but I will get darn close.
Here's my number one pet peeve when it comes to using law practice software. WE DON'T COMPLAIN ENOUGH! We just settle, and here's what I mean.
You are working on an immigration form and there is something wrong - one section is not working properly. What do you do?
-You might send a message to the company tech support.
-Or, you might just feel like you are too busy.
-Or, you might get frustrated and give up.
Our staff are especially guilty of this (I know mine are). They don't want to bother you or they don't feel empowered to complain, so they just continue making the best of it. They figure out their own workarounds to avoid the problems and end up wasting even more time. They develop a nasty attitude for "that program that never works but I have to use it."
But YOU ARE PAYING FOR A PROGRAM THAT SHOULD WORK! Here's what I force myself to do. I immediately message tech support. Every. Single. Time. Yes, they probably are sick of hearing from me, but that's ok. They might even thank me (any many have). And I preach this to my staff constantly.
I know you feel like, "Why should I do their job?" Or, "Why can't they vet their own product?" I agree, but if I want to make the best of the product, I'm going to report the errors because I want to use it for my benefit.
Please join me in my quest to ALWAYS REPORT errors or to make suggestions for improvements. And please explain this to your staff. They will be happy to complain to tech support, LOL! We will all be better off if we hold the company accountable to quickly fixing problems and developing solutions WE want.
Lateef Stephen: Paralegal, Nadine Heitz: Attorney, Gabe Adimari: Legal Assistant. Together we are constantly improving our systems so that we can be efficient, caring, and never drop the ball!
We love our sunny office in downtown Lake Worth Beach, Florida. Tech doesn't have to be dreary or boring. It can be bright and exciting, and we always enjoy exploring new options and making improvements as we work.
Coming soon! Nadine will be offering Canadian Immigration services as a licensed Canadian Immigration Consultant through her Toronto satellite office.