As Managing Director of Ireland, Jane Pilkington heads Newland Chase’s Dublin-based business where she leads a team that is responsible for providing strategic immigration advisory services to multinational and national companies. Jane is one of the world’s foremost immigration lawyers and advisers – both in Ireland and globally. She has been advising a wide range of clients on all aspects of Irish business and private client immigration for almost 20 years. Jane is an in-demand speaker at international conferences and events, including the IBA Immigration Conference and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
What attracted you to a career in corporate immigration?
My interest in Irish immigration law began when I was a trainee solicitor in the 1990s. The firm I worked in advised on a diverse range of immigration cases, from asylum to citizenship. This sparked an early interest in the area for me. When I qualified, I was very fortunate to join a full-service law firm that had a strong practice in corporate immigration, an area that was considered very niche at the time. In hindsight, what attracted me to a career in corporate immigration is the reason that I have remained in the area since then, and that is the great satisfaction in helping clients to achieve their goals within the complex fast-moving environment of Irish immigration law.
What qualities make for an effective corporate immigration lawyer?
I think that empathy, patience, good communication skills and determination are essential qualities to have as a corporate immigration lawyer. Listening to clients is critical in order to be in a position to devise and execute sensible, commercial and strategic solutions for them in a timely fashion. Determination is also very useful in order to deal with the tougher cases.
How has the corporate immigration market changed since you started practising?
I have advised on Irish immigration law and policy since qualifying as a solicitor in 2000 and so I’ve seen a lot of changes in that time! Corporate immigration was previously considered a very niche practice, whereas now, there are many more advisers in the Irish market. There is a higher demand for immigration advisers in Ireland due to increased immigration to the country. Ireland is now at full employment and has an employee-led labour market and so it is a particularly attractive destination for both EEA and non-EEA nationals.
What are the unique challenges of working in such an international area of law?
Where Ireland is a relatively new location in terms of immigration, its legislation and policies are not, as yet, as developed as those of other more traditional immigration destination countries. As such, it can sometimes be challenging to explain to clients that a solution is not immediately achievable in certain cases. Having said that, Ireland has become very progressive and proactive in terms of developing its immigration legislation and policies to ensure that it has a “fit for purpose” system. It can also be challenging to keep as up to date as possible on changes in other jurisdictions, particularly where there is an international component to an Irish case.
How do you foresee Brexit changing the landscape of the corporate immigration market?
As the UK is Ireland’s closest neighbour and trading partner, Brexit is likely to have an adverse effect on Ireland economically. On the other hand, Ireland has been identified as a popular relocation site for many UK companies who are considering a move from the UK. I began receiving queries as early as the day of the results of the UK referendum in 2016 in terms of firms and individuals considering a move to Ireland and so it has definitely resulted in an increase in business for corporate immigration advisers in Ireland. This is most likely another factor in the increase in firms providing immigration advice in Ireland. In terms of actual company moves from the UK, Ireland has mainly attracted financial services companies, including insurance, asset management and banking firms. There has also been a spike in applications for Irish citizenship and passports arising from Brexit, which has resulted in longer processing times. Finally, Brexit has really placed immigration advice at “centre stage” for clients, where it is now recognised as a critical issue for both EEA and UK nationals alike.
How do you see the barriers to workforce movement developing over the next five years?
Thankfully, from an Irish perspective, no significant barriers to workforce movement are envisaged over the next five years, other than an increase in minimum salary levels for critical skills employment permits and an increase in the duration of advertising to satisfy the labour market needs test, with these new changes being effective as of 1 January 2020. Ireland has relatively positive policies in terms of inward migration and where, as indicated above, it is currently at full employment, it is now part relying on inward migration in order to fill certain job positions.
How does Newland Chase distinguish itself from competitors?
Having previously worked in full-service law firms in Ireland, the great advantage of Newland Chase is its ability to act for clients not only locally, but also from a global perspective. At Newland Chase, we have also invested heavily in our technology platforms that allow us to track cases, securely upload/store documents and provide clients with global reporting and analytics. Our approach is consultative and strategic and covers every aspect of a client’s needs, including immigration and workplace audit training, GDPR compliance advice and project planning. There is also an incredible level of collegiality, common purpose and drive for excellence within Newland Chase which is infectious!
What advice would you give to someone starting out in corporate immigration?
My advice would be to identify a firm that practices in the area and then to get involved to make sure they are the right fit. I would also warn them that it’s a very fast-paced and demanding environment in which to work but it is an equally rewarding area in terms of the level of work satisfaction. I would tell them that I have had no regrets whatsoever in establishing my career in the area of corporate immigration and that I’ve never looked back!