Strategic Research Sponsor of the American Bar Association's Section of International Law
Laura Devine
Office:
100 Cannon Street
EC4N 6EU
City:
London
Country:
England
Tel:
+44 20 7469 6460

Questions and Answers:

Who's Who Legal Thought Leaders: Corporate Immigration

Laura is the managing partner of Laura Devine Immigration Law, a prestigious boutique immigration firm with offices in London and New York, and 60 staff providing UK and US immigration advice, which together have earned the description, a “transatlantic powerhouse”. She advises on UK and US immigration with a client base spanning all sectors from finance to fashion, corporates to individuals. Laura is a UK representative of the IBA Immigration Committee, the immigration correspondent for the Law Society Gazette and editor to Thomson Reuters’ first book on global immigration. Laura speaks internationally on immigration, law firm management and women in business.

WHAT ATTRACTED YOU TO A CAREER IN CORPORATE IMMIGRATION LAW? 

I was an employment lawyer who dabbled in immigration law until 1990. At the time immigration was less legislation-based and more underlined by policy and discretion. Advising on immigration then was like playing a game without knowing the rules. This thrilled me.

WHAT WAS THE MOST CHALLENGING ASPECT OF ESTABLISHING YOUR OWN FIRM? 

Over the years the most challenging aspect has changed. At the outset, it was competing with the larger immigration practices and law firms. This, thankfully, was soon overcome. Today, without a doubt, it is dealing with regulation and compliance.

AS MANAGING PARTNER, HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT THE FIRM STANDS OUT AMONG ITS COMPETITORS?

It helps that the firm is recognised for having a “sheer number of first-class practitioners”. Additionally, we are committed to excellence in everything we do, including technical knowledge, preparation of applications, client service and of utmost importance is the treatment of and relationship with our top-rate staff, both lawyers and support.

YOUR PRACTICE SPANS BOTH US AND UK IMMIGRATION MATTERS. HOW HAS THE PRACTICE IN BOTH JURISDICTIONS EVOLVED SINCE YOU BEGAN YOUR CAREER? 

I have practised UK immigration since 1990 and US immigration since 2003 in London, opening the New York office in 2007 where we have just celebrated our 10th anniversary.

Immigration became a big issue after 9/11 as all the terrorists were in the US on non-immigrant visas. This led to more vetting, in-person interviews at consulates, and the end to attorney representation at consular posts. With the dotcom boom, USCIS introduced premium processing and gradually all of DHS and DOS streamlined contact channels going away from direct access to online or national service lines. Our practice was almost exclusively consular-based with some petition-based cases for UK-based multinationals. This changed in 2007 when the NY office was launched and enabled us to advise US-based companies on sponsoring foreign nationals. Our labour certification, adjustment of status and naturalisation practices expanded significantly. Additionally, as the market ebbs and flows so do adjudication trends. The current administration has made immigration a keystone of its platform and has empowered all departments dealing with immigration through measures ranging from thexecutive orders on the travel ban (1-3) to employment-based green card interviews, to extreme vetting to rescinding DACA and searching electronic devises on entry. Everyone is interested in immigration. AILA membership has grown from 8,000 members in 2001 to more than 15,000 today and the Huffington Post listed immigration law as the third-most trending ractice area in 2015 (even before Trump was elected).

The profession is still quite closed but some lawyers are setting up more online services and the big accountancy practices have US practices in Canada.

WHAT IMPACT HAS THE UK’S DECISION TO LEAVE THE EU (BREXIT) HAD ON YOUR OWN PRACTICE? 

An increasing need for employers and EU individuals to understand the consequences of Brexit from an immigration standpoint. The impact for employers has not been a change as such but uncertainty with their future ability to recruit the workforce both skilled and unskilled has. Freedom of movement of EU nationals has benefited businesses in that they do not need to navigate the increasingly restrictive immigration system but they are likely to need to do so in the future in the UK – a daunting process for many. We have advised hundreds, maybe thousands, of EU nationals, many of whom have lived in the UK for decades, who need to secure their immigration status in the UK.

US IMMIGRATION LAW CONTINUES TO BECOME INCREASINGLY STRINGENT. HOW HAS THIS AFFECTED THE WAY IN WHICH CLIENTS LOOKING TO CONDUCT BUSINESS IN THE COUNTRY HAVE APPROACHED THEIR IMMIGRATION NEEDS? 

Clients are keener to get things right. A few years ago, they may have been tempted to go around the visa requirements. Now we see more willingness to instruct us at an earlier stage. It is possible that there are millennial clients who are trying to do this through online providers but I don’t think this is a large section of the market currently. All aspects of immigration are making the news now – not just illegal border crossings – so people feel much more connected to the issue.

WHAT IS THE MOST MEMORABLE MATTER THAT YOU HAVE WORKED ON IN YOUR CAREER TO DATE? 

A Latin American cleaner fearing death squads in Columbia and a powerful Ukrainian oligarch fearing assassination by Putin.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO YOUNGER PRACTITIONERS WHO ONE DAY HOPE TO BE IN YOUR POSITION? 

If by “your position” you mean being self-employed and running a law firm I would say this results in a tremendous amount of responsibility, liability, compliance, regulation, health and safety, pay rolls, cash flow management and budgeting. Each of these alone can be a worry and together they can be an enormous concern. I would advise, if you have a tendency to be anxious, perhaps this route is not for you. 

Biography:

Who's Who Legal Corporate Immigration

Laura is the managing partner of Laura Devine Solicitors, one of the most prestigious boutique immigration law firms in the UK. The firm, with an associated office in New York, has been described as a “transatlantic powerhouse” and has 60 staff. Both offices provide a full range of UK and US immigration advice to a broad range of business and personal clients. The firm, its partners and Laura are rated in the top tiers of the immigration sections of Chambers and The Legal 500, and are described as “just brilliant” according to sources, who add “between the very many good immigration practitioners in the UK, she stands out as the best”.  Laura is an English solicitor and a US attorney; before launching her own law firm she established the immigration practices at Coopers & Lybrand (now PwC) and Eversheds.

Laura is UK representative of the IBA immigration committee. She is the immigration correspondent for the Law Society Gazette and editor of Thomson Reuters' book on global immigration, Immigration Law: Jurisdictional Comparisons which is in its second edition. Laura is also a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association, the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the New York State Bar, the City of London Solicitors’ Company and the Society of Scottish Lawyers in London. Laura is an internationally renowned speaker on immigration, law firm management and women in business.

Laura has an LLM from LSE and an LLB from UCL. She established her own firm in June 2003, opening the associated New York office in 2007.

WWL says: Laura Devine continues to be regarded as a star name in the the UK market and "is simply brilliant" say peers. She is “super-dedicated” to clients and "does a great job and is very good at presenting cases".

This biography is an extract from Who's Who Legal: Corporate Immigration which can be purchased from our Shop.

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