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What does it take to be a successful immigration lawyer?

Law is one of the most popular academic disciplines in the world. With attractive salaries, strong job stability, and the respectable status often associated with law positions, it perhaps comes as no surprise that law remains a popular career-choice in the UK. Indeed, data from UCAS shows that law is the third most popular degree course in the UK (as of 2020) based on the subjects chosen by prospective undergraduates.

However, the choice of “law” as a career covers a vast area.  Some lawyers work with individuals, others specialise in large corporate matters. Some are based in house for specific companies, while others work for firms of solicitors. Some spend their days checking and writing legal documents, other spend nearly every day in a court of some description. You can have pensions lawyers, family lawyers, personal injury lawyers – the list is endless.

As Optimus Law is well-established as the UK’s leading, specialist immigration law firm, we thought it was high time that we gave some advice to the next generation of specialist immigration lawyers and share the skills that we expect to see from those considering immigration law as their chosen path.

Good legal knowledge? This is just the starting point.

It goes without saying that the entire Optimus Law team has forensically detailed knowledge of the relevant legal statutes when it comes to immigration. We analyse all relevant updates the moment they are issued, and we can always be found furthering our knowledge wherever we can. After all, the lawyers at Optimus Law have specialised in UK immigration law for at least 25 years or more, so you would expect this to be engrained in us by now.

However, there is far more to being a successful immigration lawyer than simply understanding the relevant statute books. While this knowledge is, of course, vital, we firmly believe that a strong lawyer needs to possess a whole range of skills – some of which can be learned, and some of which need to be part of your DNA; skills that you possess without even realising it.

Empathy and compassion

The ability to empathise with those who need our help is one of the most vital skills an immigration lawyer can possess.

Immigration issues can lead to families being separated against their will, or people being forced to leave their home countries for reasons beyond their control. It can lead to businesses failing if they cannot get the necessary staff in place and can shatter the dreams of students who might not be able to embark on their chosen path of study.

An immigration lawyer will therefore often come across real, raw, human emotion. It is essential to handle such cases with empathy and compassion.

This ability to relate to people from across the social spectrum goes a long way. It gives the hunger, the drive and determination to make a real difference to their lives – and gives a much deeper context to simply “getting a result”.

Possessing a strong interest in global politics and current affairs.

You only need to glance at the news pages to see that many global political human interest stories concern immigration issues. These include the ongoing tension between the UK and France arising from immigrants using the English Channel to arrive in the UK and the hardships being faced by Afghan refugees fleeing their country because of the recent takeover by the Taliban.

A good immigration lawyer will pore over these stories. They will want to understand the geo-political issues behind immigration issues. They will have all kinds of breaking news alerts set up, so they remain fully aware of the latest events.

Those without a genuine interest in geo-political issues, current affairs and human-interest news will find these tasks much easier – and enjoyable – than those who don’t get excited by breaking news stories.

Communication skills

We speak to many people. We speak to them a lot. Whether they are other lawyers, clients who might not speak English very well, CEOs of multi-national businesses, officials from the Home Office or police, we are always either on the telephone, on emails or video-calls.

It is essential to be able to communicate effectively. The ability to think logically and formulate arguments on paper and verbally, working well in a team and the ability to form a relationship with clients are all essential – and without them, your career as an immigration lawyer will be that much harder.

The list goes on

This article could run into multiple pages. We could talk about the ability to listen, to solve complex problems, to analyse large amounts of data, to have a keen eye for detail, or research complex issues. You might also need to show strong commercial awareness and think creatively.

There are a lot of skills needed to be a strong immigration lawyer. However, for those who can demonstrate these skills, we can guarantee your career will be fulfilling, rewarding and will provide enormous pleasure.

We are proud of the work we do daily – and we hope that all future immigration lawyers will share this pride as well.

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