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LAWBIZ COACHES CORNER: Forward thinkers = forward movers

Ed Poll is a speaker, author and board-approved coach to the legal profession. He can be contacted at edpoll@lawbiz.com. Also visit his interactive community for lawyers at www.LawBizForum.com.

The fact that the world is changing is no surprise to anyone, but the fact that the legal world is changing seems to be a surprise to far too many lawyers. What happens globally affects every industry, including the legal industry. And lawyers who stay cognizant of what’s happening in the world are going to be the thought leaders in their industries.

One current trend is for immigrants not only to immigrate themselves but also to transfer their wealth. Immigration law, in other words, is becoming a composite of border clients and corporate clients. Lawyers who are aware of this can expand their business by helping immigrants branch out in this way.

One of the reasons that we’ve got so many immigrants here is because the United States is seen as a cheap investment—a good investment, but a cheap investment. Many immigrants are accustomed to paying higher fees—higher by our standards, depending on what their exchange rate is.

There was an article in the newspaper not long ago about San Francisco and an investment trend occurring there. Apparently, some Asians are buying very expensive condominium units, but nobody ever lives in them. They’re buying those units because it’s a very inexpensive investment for them in their economic terms, and it’s safe.

You would think that this would make the real estate brokers happy, but that’s not the case. In fact, the real estate brokers are extremely worried about this trend. They do want to sell high-dollar units, but there has to be some activity there to generate a sort of community feeling; if the premises are empty, that interaction at the street level just doesn’t occur. And if that interaction at the street level doesn’t occur, then other buyers will be discouraged from making a real estate purchase.

Of course, dealing with immigrant clients who have money to invest adds another layer of complexity to an immigration law practice in the sense that now you’ve got issues that go far beyond immigration—you’ve got tax issues, you’ve got Homeland Security issues, and so forth. This makes things more complex, but it also adds another dimension—a potentially very profitable dimension—to a law practice.

The world is changing. Our economies are globalized now. What happens in China impacts the U.S., and what happens here impacts Europe, and so forth. The other day, I read an article discussing the fact that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is not going to reduce the volume of its oil production. However, we don’t need their oil production like we used to; for some reason, we’re more independent in terms of energy than we’ve ever been. So the global situation keeps changing, and the lawyer who doesn’t appreciate the changes and stay current with the changes and adapt to those changes will find that his own personal income will go down and the valuation of his law firm will go down.

Immigration law and the changes that occurring in that field are just one situation that lawyers should be aware of. Paying attention to all transformations, current and future, will give lawyers possibilities for expansion or changes in direction in their current practice. Being a forward thinker will translate to being a forward mover in terms of business success.

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