A strong case management program can help professionals prepare for immigration reforms [VIDEO]

Invest in a comprehensive case management system to prepare for next year's immigration reforms.

Transcript

Are you prepared for immigration reforms in 2015?

Following President Barack Obama's November speech regarding immigration laws, HR departments and law firms alike began to scramble to prepare.

One major change is for Deferred Action for Parental Accountability. The new law will allow millions of people who pass background checks and have kept up with their taxes to stay in the U.S. Parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents are eligible for the deferred action and will be able to seek legal employment under the new law.

The reform hasn't gone into effect yet, but HR departments and firms can prepare by investing in a comprehensive immigration case management system like INSZoom, which has already begun preparing a new petition type for deferred action for parents.

Check back for more information on how INSZoom can help you manage your immigration cases.

Invoice clients quickly and easily [VIDEO]

Attorneys can use their case management system to quickly invoice a client.

Transcript

Do you feel too busy to send invoices to clients every month? Accounting can often be pushed to the back burner when you're busy. But the invoicing capabilities in cloud-based case management software allows you to click a few buttons and create an invoice.

Now there are no excuses.

The simplicity of invoicing makes it easy to stay on top of billing without pulling your attention away from what really matters, which is your clients' immigration cases.

Also, if you don't want to manually send invoices to clients, you can set up a payment plan within the case management system and have bills automatically sent to them.

Check back for more information on how INSZoom can help you manage your immigration cases.

How your case management system can make work-life balance a reality

A comprehensive case management system can save enough time to allow immigration professionals to sit back and relax once in a while.

You wake up early and head into the office, stopping only at the coffee shop for your morning brew. You dive into the stack of papers on your desk and emails in your inbox, maybe stopping for lunch, until it's time to head home. After a quick dinner, you open up your laptop to get a bit more done before going to bed and starting the cycle all over again.

Does this sound like your typical day?

"Attorneys' and HR professionals' schedules often fill up to the point where they forgo workouts or spending time with friends and family."

As attorneys and HR professionals who manage multiple clients and tasks throughout the day, your schedules often fill up to the point where you forgo workouts or spending time with friends and family. During peak immigration application seasons, you can even find yourself laughing at the concept of work-life balance.

Regardless of what industry culture may say, this doesn't have to be you. There's no need to let hobbies and relaxation slide to the background. 

With a comprehensive case management system, you will:

Never forget a deadline or meeting. By integrating the CMS and office calendar, you drastically reduce the risk that an appointment will be entered in one place and not another. Not to mention, integration means you only have to enter appointments and deadlines into one program once. No more duplication, which takes up twice as much time. Additionally, many programs will automatically add the relevant deadlines to your calendar depending on the type of immigration case, meaning you don't have to take time out of your busy day to do this yourself.

Never lose a phone number or email. Nothing is a bigger waste of time than having to search an inbox for an email containing a phone number. Having contacts integrated with the CMS means a client or opposing counsels' information can be pulled up in a matter of seconds, whether you're in your email program or the CMS looking at a file.

Attorneys and HR professionals won't have to pull out their hair in frustration if they save time using their case management software.

Never wait for a file. Having all of your client files at your fingertips means there are no time-consuming trips to the file room or waiting for your colleague to finish with a document you need. When you need a specific form or piece of information, you can look it up immediately – even if a dozen other people are looking at that information too.

Never miss billable time. A CMS drastically cuts down on the time it takes to input your billable hours, review client accounts and send invoices. Tracking time within the management platform ensures you don't miss a minute of billable time by forgetting to check the clock or right it down, and with just a few clicks you can report an event on your calendar as billable time.

Never generate a useless report. Once you ensure the right data is entered into the CMS as soon as possible, such as accurate billable hours, you can worry less that inaccurate or obsolete information will make it into your reports.

Investing in immigration case management software can improve your work-life balance by making work processes more efficient and saving minutes, or even hours, throughout the work day, ensuring you don't need to open your laptop after dinner. Imagine what you can do with those hours – enjoy a yoga class, pick up painting or even catch up the latest season of your favorite show. 

Case management platforms make e-discovery a cinch [VIDEO]

Cloud-based case management systems make e-discovery requests easier to handle.

Transcript

Are you prepared to handle e-discovery requests?

More courts in the U.S. are finding attorneys need to understand what e-discovery is and how the process works. Lawyers without basic knowledge of this ever-growing issue may find themselves not upholding their ethical duties.

E-discovery is the process of gathering electronically stored data, which can be anything from e-mails to digital forms to social media profiles. Firms using cloud-based immigration case management software will likely be involved with e-discovery if they receive a request for information stored in their case management platform.

Luckily, having electronic information securely stored in one place makes it easy for firms to respond to such requests. There’s no need to look through files or go through multiple programs – almost all data will be in the cloud.

Check back for more information on how INSZoom can help you manage your immigration cases.

Case management software improves the discovery process [VIDEO]

Discovery requests can be handled quickly with a cloud-based case management platform.

Transcript

Are you equipped to handle large discovery requests?

All attorneys know the depth and burden of discovery depends entirely on the specifics of each case. In some instances, the opposing party needs only a few documents. In others, the firm has to produce hundreds or even thousands of materials – including forms, emails and other data.

If the firm has been relying on paper files, gathering and reviewing all of the potentially discoverable material can be so time consuming that it has to bring in extra help to get the review process done by the court-ordered deadline.

Instead of wasting time and money, firms should use a case management software program that allows them to respond quickly and efficiently to any demand. A cloud-based case management platform keeps discoverable information in one place so documents can easily be reviewed for relevance to discovery and produced for the case if necessary.

Check back for more information on how INSZoom can help you manage your immigration cases.

Remind immigration clients to avoid scams [VIDEO]

Helps your clients avoid scams.

Transcript

Are you aware of the latest immigration scams?

Immigration professionals have a responsibility to not only do their best for their clients, but also help their clients avoid issues like immigration scams. Potential immigration reforms have created new opportunities for scam artists to steal people's identities and money.

HR professionals and attorneys can help their clients by reminding the clients to never give their Social Security number or other sensitive identification or financial information over the phone or in an email.

Businesses and firms should use a secure immigration case management software program so they can gather this information through electronically safe means if they can't do so in person.

Check back for more information on how INSZoom can help you manage your immigration cases.

Real advice on how to actually go paperless at work

Immigration professionals can cut back on how much paper they waste by using their cloud-based case management software.

Moving to a paperless office may seem like a pipe dream to attorneys and HR professionals who have worked in the immigration field for years. You know everything runs on forms, and while many governments have shifted toward electronic immigration processes, the court systems generally still require paper pleadings.

It's true: Firms and HR departments are unlikely to purge their offices of every shred of paper. However, they can drastically reduce how many trees they're using. There's no need to laugh at all of the "How to go paperless" articles floating around the Internet. Some of them have great advice.

In fact, follow these steps to reach your goal of being a paperless office:

Invest in equipment and software
The partners and executives may not be happy to hear it, but the best paperless plans start with cloud-based case management software and buying each paralegal or staff member an easy-to-use scanner. It's impossible to go paperless without the cloud, therefore offices need to work with a vendor who will provide a strong immigration-focused CMS.

"The best paperless plans start with cloud-based CMS."

Additionally, the one or two scanners attached to the copiers currently in the office won't be enough to transfer old and new paper documents into the cloud. Just imagine paralegals waiting in line to scan client documents and immigration forms – it would be a mess. If purchasing everyone a scanner is too big of an upfront expense, start by providing scanners to the people who will handle incoming documents.

Create a written paperless plan
Shifting the culture of the office to one focused on reducing paper usage takes rewriting internal processes. Incoming documents that used to go to paper files now need to be scanned right away and either recycled or properly stored.

Offices moving to paperless methods often have hoards of open and closed files taking up space. These will need to be scanned, and you should propose a timeline for how and when this task will be completed. For example, each paralegal or file clerk could be assigned a portion of the alphabet and be given a deadline for when these documents need to be entered into the cloud.

Before announcing to staff the office will go paperless, make sure you've completed the paperless plan and can train everyone on it. In order to truly reduce paper waste, everyone in the office needs to be on the same page with how their work will change. A goal is merely hope if there isn't a defined plan. 

Going paperless is possible if offices attack their goal with a defined plan.Going paperless is possible if offices attack their goal with a defined plan.

Bring on temporary staff if necessary
Scanning old and ongoing files to the cloud can be quite an undertaking. To quicken the pace of transferring paper to your cloud-based CMS, consider hiring temporary workers. This will also allow your current staff to stay on top of their normal work without being distracted by additional scanning and data entry responsibilities.

Reducing paper waste in law offices and HR departments isn't a pipe dream. It can and it has been done. Immigration professionals merely need to make use of their cloud-based CMS instead of relying on antiquated paper files.

7 reasons why you need the cloud

Cloud-based case management software provides firms and companies with the tools they need to help their clients and improve their bottom lines.

For firm or business decision-makers, deciding to invest in new software takes thought and planning. Understandably, they want to know the costs, benefits, detriments and what to expect months and years down the road from the program and provider. Purchasing a program that isn't right for the firm or company can cause a major headache and in the end, will not only waste time and money, but put decision-makers off the idea of implementing new technology again.

The decision to purchase cloud-based case management software is a big one no matter what size the business, but immigration professionals can rest assured, using a strong immigration-focused CMS will do nothing but improve their daily lives and their companies' bottom lines.

"The decision to purchase cloud-based case management software is a big one no matter what size the business."

1. Necessary integration
Investing in the cloud promotes businesses and firms to integrate their existing programs with the CMS. HR departments can consolidate their time and data by integrating their human resources management and case management platforms, and attorneys can do the same by uniting their email and calendar applications with their CMS.

These integrations not only ensure information is consolidated on the user's end, but also where it's stored. This greatly reduces the challenges of accurate reporting and, if the situation arises, answering discovery requests.

2. Improved scalability
Sometimes businesses need more space, other times they realize they've taken on too much. Using a cloud-based CMS allows expanding companies and firms to quickly purchase more storage space from their provider, which is perfect for businesses that expect to take on new clients and matters in 2015.

3. Less hardware
A major plus of the cloud is the lack of hardware firms and companies need to use it. Businesses will continue to provide computers to their staff, but they no longer have to worry about servers that take up space and need additional security. Having the best hard drives and other electronic equipment is the cloud provider's responsibility.

Companies and firms that use their own in-house servers for a CMS program will need to make a significant capital investment if they want to enlarge their storage space. They'll also need to upgrade the equipment at least once every five to seven years.

Immigration professionals can find freedom and security in the cloud.Immigration professionals can find freedom and security in the cloud.

4. Quicker updates
Immigration professionals need the latest information and most up-to-date forms as soon as possible – meaning within a day, not weeks. CMS programs not based in the cloud are more troublesome to update because the vendor has to provide a separate upgrade or new version that users then have to install. Cloud-based platforms can be updated quickly and efficiently, with little to no work needed on the users end. If new forms come out, the attorneys and HR professionals can have them in as few as 24 hours.

5. Enhanced flexibility
Busy and traveling immigration attorneys need to be able to connect to work at a moment's notice and anywhere in the world.  A cloud-based CMS makes sure this can happen. All it takes is an Internet connection and the right security access to sign in to the CMS and work. This option is also great for firms and companies that allow employees to work from home.

6. Power security
There are whispers the cloud isn't as secure as people think, but firms and businesses working with a credible vendor that uses advanced physical and informational security don't need to worry. The cloud provides the security HR departments and law firms need to protect sensitive and confidential information.

"The cloud provides the security HR departments and law firms need to protect sensitive and confidential information."

Additionally, the physical security used on most data centers is much better than the security of the average office building, so professionals can worry less about what will happen to their data if there's a disaster such as flooding or fire.

Cloud vendors also routinely backup data from one data center to another. If physical harm is done to the facility, data remains safe in another center in a geographically separate area.

7. Convenient IT support
Many firms and businesses dread the moment they need to call their third-party IT provider or email their in-house staff. For most immigration professionals, addressing technology issues isn't their strong suit and for a majority of companies and law offices, paying for additional IT help is a financial drain. Businesses can cut down on what they spend on extra IT help by using a vendor that provides IT services for their cloud-based CMS.  

5 things lawyers should know when jumping in to the cloud

Getting the hang of the cloud can take some time, but once attorneys dive in they'll fully realize the benefits.

It's 2015, so it's no shock that many immigration professionals, including attorneys, utilize the cloud to improve the efficiency of their practice and get positive outcomes for their clients. In fact, it's probably hard to go a day without hearing about the cloud. Law firms and in-house departments that have adopted the cloud understand the benefits, and now it's time for professionals who have been holding out to get onboard.

The true day-to-day benefit of the cloud comes from it making life easier. Immigration-specific case management software puts U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and other nations' immigration forms just a few clicks away and reduces how often attorneys have to hassle with paper files. Lawyers spend less time looking for paperwork and more time helping their clients.

Lawyers can spend less time searching and holding files if they use the cloud.

In order to invest in the most robust CMS available, attorneys need to understand a few things about the cloud and the current state of the cloud products market:

"The cloud may seem like a new concept, but it has actually been around as long as email."

  1. It's just a fancy term for the Internet. The cloud may seem like a new concept, but it has actually been around as long as email. Cloud computing is simply the storing and retrieving of data through the Internet instead of from a single computer's hard drive. Data in the cloud is securely stored in either the cloud provider's data centers and users send or access information to and from the cloud through an online platform, or in a private platform created specifically for a business. These options are known as Software as a Service and Platform as a Service, respectively.
  2. It's here to stay. More lawyers in and outside of the immigration sector are using the cloud for storage and practice management applications. What was once a new and exciting option is becoming the norm. According to the most recent American Bar Association Legal Technology Survey Report, about 30 percent of attorneys used cloud-based software in 2013 and 2014, compared to 21 percent in 2012. The rise in use is not only from younger attorneys who are entering the legal field knowing how the cloud works and how to implement it, but from professionals with decades of experience learning about and investing in this technology.
  3. It's as secure as you make it. There's a lot of talk about whether or not the cloud is as secure as when companies store data on their private internal servers. Both methods can potentially provide the privacy attorneys need to protect sensitive and confidential information. Ensuring the cloud is as safe as attorneys need it to be merely rests on lawyers doing their research and investing in a cloud provider that offers the right amount of physical security for their data centers and technological security for the traveling and stored data. The security advantage offered by the cloud provider is that it is often more cost-efficient for firms to not need separate IT support to keep their electronic defenses up to date.
  4. How you pay for it. The cost of the cloud can differ drastically depending on the services provided and amount of storage purchased. Some public clouds are free, like Google. However, cloud vendors who provide SaaS and PaaS will charge for their product and ongoing services such as the storage space and IT support. Many SaaS providers charge for the implementation plus monthly fees, which can be based off the amount of storage the firm needs. Firms may dislike the prospect of another monthly bill, but the cost of SaaS can often be deducted as a business expense, providing a tax benefit.
  5. Not all providers are created equal. The growing popularity of the cloud means the market is now inundated with a variety of providers and products, including many free options. However, not every cloud provider puts the same amount of time and effort into physical and informational security. Firms should invest in a vendor that's upfront about their security measures, provides data centers located in the U.S. and a digital environment protected by encryption and ISO certification.

Wrap 2014 up with a bow

Follow this end of the year to-do list to wrap up 2014.

Did wrapping up 2014 and tying it with a neat bow go as planned? If not, have no fear. Many human resources departments and law firms faced tight schedules in November and December, meaning a few things had to be put off for another time. We're already in 2015, but luckily, it's not too late to finish your end of the year to-do list! All you need to do is put your immigration case management program to full use.

"Schedule a definite time with your team to tackle the stacks of paper files taking up space in your office."

Schedule time to rid yourself of paper
Before you move any further into the new year, schedule a definite time with your team to tackle the stacks of paper files taking up space in your office. There's no need to hold on to worthless paper when important forms and documents can be stored in the cloud through your case management software.

It's a time-consuming endeavor, but your meeting should end with a plan on how documents will be sorted, scanned, saved in the cloud and finally, recycled. It may seem stressful, but once you go paperless, you'll never go back.

Gather reports
The end of the year means reports, reports, reports! Use the wide-range of reporting capabilities within your immigration case management platform to run reports for budgeting, internal decision-making and grant applications. Remember, you don't have to rely solely on the built-in reporting features either. Businesses and firms can customize reports to gather and analyze only the specific information they need.

Settle outstanding accounts
The immigration case management software reporting capabilities can show you which client accounts are past due. Now is the time to take advantage of the fast and easy invoicing options in the platform and reach out to clients to bring them up to date on their bills.

For clients who aren't able to pay in one lump sum, the case management program has a payment plan function, which allows you to create plans unique to your clients' situations.

Check off all the boxes on your end of the year to-do list.

Prepare for your taxes
No one likes to think about taxes, but at least once a year it's a necessity. However, you can lessen your anxiety by ensuring you take the full deductions you're entitled to. Organize your receipts and review your business expenses with your accountant. Don't forget you may be able to deduct the cost of your cloud-based immigration case management program as a reasonable business expense.

Set workflow deadlines
As you face a new H-1B season, set strict deadlines for the business, such as when you'll gather regional and government wage data, submit Labor Condition Applications and have all H-1B visa applications complete and ready to be submitted. Immigration professionals who don't head into the new year with deadlines run the risk of getting behind in their visa application workflow and reducing the chance of getting the visas they need.

Touch base with clients
To fully wrap up 2014 and start this year off right, you need to touch base with clients. Many immigration matters have lengthy wait times between actions and clients can become worried if they don't hear from their attorney or HR manager. Use post-holiday time connect with clients you haven't spoken to in a few weeks and let them know what they should expect in 2015.

           
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