Unlocking Practice Management Essentials: Shekarian Law PC

  • May 02, 2024
  • Aqsa Nadeem, Newsletter Editor, OBA Citizenship & Immigration Law Section

headshot photo of Siavash ShekarianBEFORE WE BEGIN, Siavash please tell us a little bit about yourself.

My journey into immigration law has been unconventional yet deeply fulfilling. After completing my engineering degree at University of Toronto and working briefly in the field, I realized my passion lay elsewhere. I sought opportunities to engage in advocacy work, which eventually led me to the United Nations. This experience ignited a newfound interest in law, prompting me to pursue legal studies at UofT.

Following graduation, I embarked on a path less traveled by completing my articles and establishing my practice overseas. Recognizing the limitations of Canada's relatively small and conservative market, I ventured beyond its borders to create opportunities for myself and my clients. This decision allowed me to tap into diverse markets and broaden my scope within the field of immigration law.

Could you please provide a brief overview of your firm’s history? or some milestones you may have achieved.

As an immigration lawyer with over a decade of experience, my journey in law began with a focus on business law, particularly assisting Iranian businesses in expanding globally. My expertise initially revolved around facilitating international business transactions and navigating the complexities of private international law, including sanctions compliance. Over time, I observed a shift in client needs, with more individuals seeking assistance not just in conducting business abroad, but in immigrating to new jurisdictions amidst global uncertainties.

This evolution led to the establishment of Shekarian Law PC, specializing in business immigration. Our firm's mission is to aid entrepreneurs in launching and growing ventures in Canada, with the ultimate goal of settling in the country. While traditional business metrics measure success by financial milestones, I find fulfillment in the relationships built with clients and the trust they place in our services.

That’s the history, in terms of milestones, for me, milestones are not merely about revenue or profit margins, but about the recognition earned through client satisfaction and enduring partnerships. Witnessing a client's gratitude, expressed through gestures like testimonials, referrals and sentimental gifts, signifies a deeper level of success in fostering lasting connections. Moreover, forging strategic alliances within the business community enhances our ability to drive growth ethically and sustainably.

Despite prevalent beliefs that morality and business success are incompatible, I stand as a testament to the contrary. Operating with integrity may take time to yield results, but the enduring relationships and genuine trust it fosters are invaluable. By prioritizing ethical principles, we not only achieve business objectives but also contribute to a more positive and sustainable business environment.

Can you describe the organizational structure of your firm? Do you have specialized departments or team leads? 

We currently have a team of 11 including three departments: operations/sales, marketing, and IT.  If  required we also hire lawyers on short term or contract basis. 

I can see that through your website that you are unique in a sense that you have a target audience, specifically Iran, tell us about this. 

This is where my passion truly ignites. I firmly believe it's my moral obligation to prioritize assistance to those most culturally connected to me. Fortunately, those within this cultural sphere also represent a significant market with a great demand for my expertise. My specialization lies in aiding individuals from this community in establishing and operating businesses in Canada. Our primary business objective is to assert dominance within this market before considering expansion.

Currently, our marketing efforts are exclusively targeted towards Farsi speakers. While we do not actively pursue non-Farsi speaking clients, we inevitably attract some through word of mouth and other channels. However, the core of our clientele remains Farsi speakers due to our focused marketing strategies. By concentrating our efforts within this demographic, we aim to provide tailored and effective services to meet their specific needs.

You mentioned earlier that you have a marketing team. So, how exactly do you market, is the website or social media presence the primary source? How do you stand out?

In marketing, content creation and distribution are essential components. Distribution methods may vary across industries, but the fundamentals remain consistent, whether you're selling legal services or socks. Common channels include social media, television, and print media. However, the strategy for utilizing these channels differs significantly depending on the nature of the business. For instance, selling socks requires a different social media approach compared to marketing legal services. While distribution strategies are crucial, I want to focus on content generation, particularly for young lawyers.

In professional services, such as law, content creation revolves around the personality and expertise of the service provider. Your personality drives your branding, which can be challenging for many lawyers who may not excel in self-branding. Unlike other industries, legal education often overlooks the importance of personal branding and content creation in the business of law.

In the legal profession, practitioners often assume one of three roles: Finders, Minders, and Grinders. Grinders, the majority, prefer to focus on legal work rather than client relations or business development. However, it's crucial to recognize the significance of personal branding in driving business growth.

Every piece of content should reflect your unique value proposition. Merely regurgitating news or legal updates lacks differentiation. Your personality is what sets you apart and attracts clients. It's essential to infuse your content with your individual voice and expertise, emphasizing what makes you distinct. As your business grows, your personality becomes integral in recruiting like-minded individuals who share your branding mentality. Ultimately, your personality drives your branding, which, in turn, drives your business growth.

It’s really simple, in our approach to marketing, we prioritize building strong relationships with our clients. This principle is at the core of our business ethos, as reflected on our website. We are selective about the clients we work with, choosing them as much as they choose us. When we engage with a client, it's akin to choosing a friend because we understand the importance of trust and compatibility in our professional relationships.

Trust is the cornerstone of any successful relationship, especially in the realm of immigration law. However, in addition to trust, clients also seek expertise and competence. At our firm, we recognize the critical importance of both. We pride ourselves on offering not only transparency and honesty but also a high level of expertise in immigration matters.

By prioritizing trust and expertise, we distinguish ourselves in a competitive market. Clients seek out our services because they know they can rely on us to provide sound legal advice and navigate complex immigration processes with integrity and professionalism. As a result, we believe that focusing on building trust is not only ethically sound but also strategically advantageous. It allows us to establish long-lasting relationships with our clients and positions us for success in our field.

Immigration laws, policies and procedures are constantly evolving. How do you stay current with the ever-changing landscape of immigration law, and how do you incorporate these changes into your practice? 

As an immigration lawyer, staying abreast of the ever-changing landscape of immigration law is paramount to providing effective representation to our clients. Entrepreneurship within this field presents unique challenges, given its inherent complexity and the unpredictable nature of immigration policies. However, we have developed both short-term and long-term strategies to navigate these challenges.

In the short term, honesty and transparency with our clients are non-negotiable principles. Managing client expectations is crucial, particularly when unforeseen circumstances arise due to changes in immigration policies or procedures. While we may express frustrations with bureaucratic inefficiencies, our commitment to protecting our clients' interests remains unwavering. Continuously updating our knowledge and expertise is equally essential. We vigilantly monitor legal developments, leveraging resources like Westlaw and CanLII to stay informed of recent cases and regulatory changes. Additionally, participation in professional listservs facilitates collaboration with peers and access to valuable insights within the legal community.

However, our long-term strategy extends beyond individual client representation. We recognize the importance of advocacy and policy influence in shaping the future of immigration law. Despite the challenges and sacrifices involved, we actively engage in policymaking initiatives, such as volunteering with organizations like the OBA and advocating for reforms that promote a more business-friendly immigration system. By amplifying our voices and advocating for change at a systemic level, we aim to not only improve our practice but also contribute to a more equitable and efficient immigration process for all stakeholders.

In conclusion, while the journey of entrepreneurship in immigration law may be fraught with obstacles, our dedication to honesty, expertise, and policy advocacy ensures that we continue to serve our clients effectively while striving for positive systemic change in the field.

This leads me to my next question; do you use any AI tools or systems to streamline processes or enhance client services? 

As an immigration lawyer, the integration of technology into our firm's operations is essential for optimizing efficiency and delivering top-notch service to our clients. However, it's crucial to remember that technology should align with our practice goals rather than dictating them. While off-the-shelf solutions or softwares may seem appealing, customization is often necessary to meet the unique needs of our practice.

In our firm, we have explored various technology options. However, we found that many pre-packaged solutions didn't fully align with the intricacies of our practice. Consequently, we opted to develop our in-house solution tailored specifically to our requirements. We have developed our own internal software for file management.

For young lawyers or those with limited resources, starting with simple yet versatile tools like Excel is a pragmatic approach. Excel sheets can serve as a foundational framework that can be expanded upon as the practice grows. When evaluating practice management software, I recommend requesting demos and trials from providers to assess their suitability for your specific needs. It's essential to thoroughly evaluate features, usability, and customization options before committing to any software solution.

Ultimately, the integration of technology should enhance our ability to serve clients effectively while streamlining internal processes. Whether it's utilizing AI for graphic design or employing smart sheets for practice management, leveraging technology across all departments is crucial for maximizing productivity and delivering exceptional legal services.

Some other tools we use include:

  • Google G Suite
  • Smartsheet
  • Google tools
  • Microsoft Teams
  • Jasper adobe
  • ClickUp

What are some of the challenges you have faced over the years and how have you overcome them? 

Of course, navigating the landscape of immigration law presents a myriad of challenges that I've encountered throughout my career. Despite its apparent simplicity in certain legal aspects, such as drafting submission letters for visas or startup groups, immigration law remains one of the most complex and demanding areas of legal practice.

The primary challenge stems from the inherent political nature of immigration policies. Decisions can fluctuate rapidly, often with little predictability or consistency. This unpredictability extends to the discretion exercised by immigration officials, which can vary significantly from case to case. While discretion is a necessary component of any functional system, its inconsistent application within our immigration system poses significant challenges for practitioners and clients alike.

Moreover, the constantly evolving global landscape adds another layer of complexity. Geopolitical events, such as conflicts or shifts in public policy, can dramatically alter migration patterns and client needs. This necessitates a high level of agility in responding to changing circumstances and adjusting strategies accordingly.

As a firm, we've learned to confront these challenges with agility, adaptability, and resilience. Our ability to think on our feet and swiftly integrate changes into our practice has been crucial in maintaining our effectiveness. However, scaling our practice in such a dynamic environment presents its own set of hurdles. Scaling requires not only strategic planning but also a deep understanding of how to navigate the complexities of immigration law while maintaining the trust and confidence of our clients.

In essence, success in immigration law requires a combination of agility, patience, and resilience. While the challenges may be daunting, they also present opportunities for growth and innovation. As an entrepreneur in this field, I remain committed to overcoming these challenges and providing exceptional service to our clients, all while striving to build a scalable and sustainable practice for the future.

I think all practitioners will agree, there is a lot of discretion within the immigration system, how do you manage client expectations?

As a Canadian immigration lawyer specializing in serving Iranian clients, managing their expectations is paramount to our practice. Transparency and honesty are foundational principles in our client relationships.

When selecting clients, we conduct a thorough assessment of their eligibility based on both paper and personal interactions. While many Iranian clients may appear strong on paper, possessing ample resources and assets, it's crucial to convey the realities of Canada's immigration system. We openly discuss the discriminatory practices that exist within the system and emphasize the importance of submitting the strongest application possible .

In an environment where misinformation is prevalent, particularly in the Iranian market, our role is to provide clarity and honesty. Many clients have encountered false promises from immigration practitioners, who may exploit their dreams of immigrating to Canada. We position ourselves as a trusted source of accurate information, helping clients understand the complexities of the process and manage their expectations accordingly.

Client management involves candid conversations about the potential challenges they may face, despite their strong profiles. We advise them to allocate a budget for potential legal challenges in case their applications are refused. This proactive approach ensures that clients are prepared for any eventualities and underscores our commitment to advocating for their best interests throughout the immigration process.

By prioritizing transparency, honesty, and proactive client management, we aim to build trust and confidence with our Iranian clients. Our goal is not just to facilitate their immigration to Canada but to empower them with the knowledge and resources they need to navigate the process successfully.

Finally, what advice would you like to share with junior lawyers who are contemplating launching their own legal practices or have recently established their firms? 

For young lawyers considering starting their practice in immigration law, I offer three key pieces of advice. Firstly, prioritize building your expertise. Immigrating to Canada involves navigating a complex legal landscape, so it's essential to know your field inside and out. Continuous learning and honing your skills will set you apart in this competitive market.

Secondly, resilience is crucial. The immigration law market may appear intimidating, with established firms dominating the landscape. However, it's important to recognize that despite their outward appearance, these firms are often no more than average. There's ample room for new players to compete and succeed. Stay determined, persevere through challenges, and don't give up on your aspirations.

Finally, I encourage young lawyers to get involved. Immigration law is not just a legal practice—it's a societal issue that demands our attention. By joining forces with like-minded professionals and advocacy groups, we can work towards creating a more accessible and equitable immigration system. Active participation in initiatives aimed at improving immigration policies and practices benefits both practitioners and immigrants seeking to build their lives in Canada.

In summary, focus on developing your expertise, remain resilient in the face of challenges, and actively engage in efforts to shape a better future for immigration law. With dedication and perseverance, there's ample opportunity for success in this dynamic and vital field.


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