Rami D Fakhoury is the founder and managing director of Fakhoury Global Immigration USA, PC (FGI), one of the largest independently owned business-based immigration law firms in the US. Mr Fakhoury is a fellow of the American Bar Association, and a leading lawyer and equity member of the Alliance Business Immigration Lawyers (ABIL). FGI is an Inc. 5000 firm with an AV rating from Martindale Hubbell.
How has the corporate immigration market changed since you first started practising?
The corporate immigration market has become highly complex in recent years. A greater number and increasingly diverse range of clients are seeking legal immigration services due to changes to governmental policies and administrative procedures. Immigration firms need to keep up in this challenging environment and to ensure that clients remain confident that their talent mobility needs are being satisfied.
What do you enjoy most about practising in the corporate immigration space?
It’s knowing that our firm produces effective results for American employers, as well as for highly skilled and ambitious people who wish to come to the US and contribute to its economy. Our attorneys, and I personally, have received many letters and messages of appreciation for our efforts on their behalf, and it’s a great feeling knowing that we have made such a difference to their lives.
What impact do you think the entry of the big accountancy firms into the corporate immigration space will have on the market?
We are paying very close attention to this development. Over the past few years, the big accountancy firms have made dramatic inroads into multiple legal areas – not only immigration. These “Big Four” firms are merging the legal talent that they acquire through strategic partnerships or acquisitions with their in-house processes to drive high-volume business. Basically, they are out to create “one-stop shops” where clients can receive legal and financial services, all under one umbrella. The potential impact is very clear: law firms will have to accelerate their efforts even more to integrate technologies and to re-organise their own case processing in order to meet this challenge head-on.
While contract law and tax law are the two main practices that the Big Four are acquiring, corporate immigration firms cannot afford to be complacent. PwC’s strategic partnership with Fragomen, and Deloitte’s acquisition of Berry Appleman & Leiden, show how the Big Four are bundling legal immigration within a package of service offerings. I believe, however, that clients are best served when corporate immigration services are not bundled with other services, which can adversely affect service quality. Indeed, it is far better for law firms to remain independent and to form individual partnerships with tax firms and consultancies – which is what we do at FGI. Our team finds this to be more effective as it allows us to maintain our service standards. The next several years will be very challenging, but we believe that our clients will continue to appreciate our ability both to get effective results and provide the personal attention and care that we give to each case.
What qualities make for an effective corporate immigration lawyer?
When our firm interviews prospective lawyers, the qualities we look for are flexibility and attention to detail. Corporate immigration is a fast-paced and high-volume field; attorneys need the flexibility to address the specifics of each client’s case and simultaneously to ensure that their caseloads are moving efficiently. Above all, attention to detail is critical. Each visa type has its own nuances – and our firm’s attorneys all work on multiple types – so that creating an effective petition or request-for-evidence response requires a detailed and thorough understanding of how the regulations and laws affect each client’s specific petition. Hitting that balance between flexibility, attention to detail and efficient case management is a real challenge and, consequently, the hallmark of an excellent immigration attorney.
What impact has technology had on corporate immigration practice in recent years?
Technology has been, and will continue to be, a key driver in the ability of corporate immigration firms to stay competitive. Clients want to see that their cases are processed efficiently and are demanding that firms shorten their time-to-file. They also want us to align our case management technologies with their internal HR processes and want reassurance that their sensitive data is secure. We are continually investing in technologies that respond to our clients’ needs and that gives us a competitive edge.
Has there been a significant change in the types of immigration service requested in the past five years?
Clients are very concerned about the current legal and regulatory environment, both in the US and abroad. They hear news about forthcoming changes to immigration laws and they become concerned about initiating cases. We have made it a priority to help our clients understand the petitioning process and to provide guidance at every step of the process.
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 achieve the title of “father of three university graduates”! Otherwise, I plan to continue growing our firm so that we can extend our charitable outreach. As Booker T Washington once said, “Those who are happiest are those who do the most for others.”
What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own firm?
Make sure you understand and appreciate the environment in which your firm will operate. It’s a challenging time to be an immigration attorney, let alone a business owner, and you will need to have both creativity and fortitude to survive and thrive.