The well-known proverb reads that “necessity is the mother of invention” – or “reinvention” I would add. An American by birth and education with five years of business immigration experience under my belt, I moved to London 12 years ago to continue my practice in US immigration law. The job search was onerous because, while there were over 16,000 US immigration attorneys in AILA, only about 50 were based in the United Kingdom. It wasn’t long before I transitioned from “associate attorney” working for someone else to “partner” and business owner after just one year of living in a foreign country.
Removing the myriad challenges of setting up a business in a country outside of the US, “entrepreneur” was never a job title I imagined that I would have as an attorney. I have an undergraduate degree in Political Science and my brother was always the family member known to be “good with money.” Nevertheless, necessity was the mother of reinvention and I started on a long learning curve of business ownership – something that was definitely not on my curriculum in law school.
Relying on the guidance and advice of friends (fellow entrepreneurs), colleagues, my brother and the podcast “How I Built This,” I slowly learned how to budget both time and money and the ins-and-outs of business development. I (along with my law partner at the time) did nearly everything ourselves initially, then grew a tiny work force of unpaid interns, paid legal coordinators and finally hiring a full time attorney. Even then, my informal “board of advisors” insisted that I was not delegating properly and I continued to find myself stuck with a difficult RFE to draft while I was on “holiday.” This was not the work-life balance that I wanted. I wanted the right support and to know that I could afford to pay that support even when pandemics and travel bans arise. Learning how to do this became my number one focus… after finishing responding to an RFE and client e-mails. Finding the time to learn had to be carved out first.
Which leads me to another quote – likely said by others but most recently by TikTok personality Tinx – which is that “time is our only finite resource.” Whilst it would be great to go back in time to learn these entrepreneurial skills as a fulltime student, that is impossible. Instead, it struck me as something that AILA could provide for its members – many of us who want to become better business owners and remain great lawyers but who are time deprived. AILA could dedicate two full days of classes where we could learn not just from leading immigration attorneys but other entrepreneurial experts as well.
So, I am so thrilled to announce that AILA has organized its first Business School (for immigration lawyers). Scheduled in Las Vegas on December 5 and 6, there will be two full days of instruction on how to budget, staff, manage, grow and ultimately exit a law practice. The idea is to get into the weeds and provide practical guidance on business ownership in areas where you may just feel like you are “winging it.” This is the sort of in-depth business-focused training I wish would have existed when I was starting out on my entrepreneurial journey. Ultimately, nobody wants to draft an RFE on vacation and this conference will ensure that you never do so again!