Matthew Stump maintains a focused practice on all aspects of corporate immigration law, with special emphasis on the USDOL’s Alien Labor Certification (PERM) process. Mr Stump serves the American Immigration Lawyers Association in various capacities, including as past chair of AILA’s Service Center Operations Government Relations Committee and as a member of AILA’s HQ Liaison Committee. He is a recurring panellist at leading conferences and CLEs on immigration law across the United States and internationally.
What inspired you to pursue a legal career?
I was inspired to become an immigration lawyer by my father, T. Douglas Stump, an AILA past president. My sister also elected to pursue a career in immigration law, so it was clear that we were both afforded an incredible opportunity to learn from the best in the field. Moreover, the legal profession uniquely places someone to advance the public good. There are very few limits to how far one can take their advocacy to help individuals, companies, non-profits and other clients. It is one of the most meaningful, impactful ways to influence society in a positive way.
What do you enjoy most about working in immigration law?
Daily exposure to immigrants who are more intelligent than me, more driven, more influential, more energetic and more resilient. It is inspiring and they drive me to see my life in context, and to work hard to sharpen my skills every single day. The field is also rapidly changing and never stale. There is truly never a dull moment. The practice is also quite diverse, as one can take on many tasks and goals such as preparing complex petitions for immigration benefits, to litigating, to managing and even educating. It is a massive body of law with endless opportunities.
What qualities make for an effective immigration lawyer in today’s climate?
Immigration law has become an incredibly fast-paced and high-stress field of law. Changes occur daily that have profound impact on your clients. One needs to be able to think days, weeks and months ahead, and be able to put complex plans into motion with care and attention. An immigration lawyer’s skill has a direct impact on immigrants, their families and the generations that follow. Staying heavily involved in regulatory development, litigation outcomes, government liaison, managing employees in stressful work environment, managing complex cases and large caseloads are all helpful skills but, perhaps more than anything, confidence and the ability to have honest communication with clients is the most important quality to make an effective lawyer. The good ones work hard to educate clients on “why” something is happening and have honest discussions about the challenges they face and potential outcomes so they can prepare their businesses and families accordingly. We must go above and beyond what is expected and required to truly be an irreplaceable asset for our clients.
What impact has technology had on your immigration practice in recent years?
Communication-based technology has had a profound impact. The ability to stay in touch with your client (and for your client to stay more in touch with you) provides both parties with rapid information exchange and allows attorneys to be a source of comfort when the client is facing intimidating challenges. It goes without saying that there is no replacement for sitting down with your client face-to-face on regular intervals, so improvements to videoconferencing technologies in response to the pandemic have become critical. My office has always been an early adopter of any source of technology that can improve our relationships with our clients, so the improvements to communication-based technologies in 2020 has been amazing.
What are the significant challenges that covid-19 has brought to the types of immigration services requested?
The primary challenges, outside practice management, is working to ensure your clients can find a mechanism to enter the United States despite the presidential proclamations. Clients, and thus lawyers, must also be more careful to ensure there is no lapse in status or work authorisation, as departure-and-re-entry is no longer an option to cure innocent mistakes, and could result in disastrous consequences such as unlawful presence bars. Knowing how to navigate State Department policies for travel ban exceptions and understanding legal mechanisms to cure lapses in status is more important than ever, so my employees and I constantly monitor and distil proclamations, government guidance and harness our participation in high-level brains trusts comprised of the world’s best lawyers to ensure we can provide clients with immediate and effective counsel.
How has your work with the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) enhanced your role as a corporate immigration lawyer?
AILA affords me access to timely, reliable information and an environment in which to develop life-long relationships with the most brilliant minds in corporate immigration law. It also serves as a tool for education and provides a channel to communicate to agencies that many members would not otherwise have. There is no greater source of information when it comes to US immigration law and I have been fortunate to participate in AILA as an educator, conference planner and government liaison.
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?
Do not isolate yourself. There are too many moving parts and you need a network. Donate your time to AILA or another organisation dedicated to the practice of law. Dig in and work hard. It will improve your skills as an attorney. You will set yourself apart.
You have enjoyed a very distinguished career so far. What would you like to achieve that you have not yet accomplished?
I would like to see an increase in the role litigation plays in the field of immigration law, and work to re-establish a healthy liaison relationship between the public, AILA and the federal immigration agencies. The relationship between the public and the government has become too adversarial, and it does not benefit either party. I look forward to working hard to re-establish what was once a fruitful, mutually beneficial relationship.