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The Extinction of Immigration Lawyers?


David Cantor


January 23, 2022


08:06 AM

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It's easy to get caught in the wave of seamless mobility. The essence of moving across borders without limitations. Freedom of movement. A borderless world. Global Citizens.

You need not search far and wide for headlines to inundate: Remote Work and Living in a Post-Pandemic Era. The Future of Work is Now. The Rise of Digital Nomads. Contemporary news forging ahead like a relentless current into the valleys of global consciousness. Global mobility with a digital identity and passport. A physical visa stamp – what is that? I don’t even have a nationality. My bank account exists in binary, exchanges 135 currencies plus another 50 you never heard of. Immigration lawyer? Who is that?

In the 15th century, one of the most noble professions was that of a notario. Any document of relative importance and value was required to pass along the ornate, candlelit desk of a notario to formalize authenticity. Deeds, wills, exchanges of notes, business transactions – everything from selling your horse to getting married – from certifying birth certificates to distribution of estates after-death – notarised.

Now I mention the notary, not because this will happen to licensed immigration practitioners. Rather, it highlights a reality that disciplines once held in high-esteem can ultimately become nothing more than a stamp in Chinatown after eating dumplings.

As a licensed immigration lawyer, I’ve always valued this profession. You are placed at the intersection of cross-border mobility as an enabler. A facilitator for individuals, and provider of a service that oftentimes influences life-experiences. And whether it emerges from a client's need or want, it is usually a professional objective that seeks a positive outcome.

Still, is this enough?

In a world where Governments and legislation are starting to promulgate more “turn-key” immigration pathways, what does this mean for licensed immigration practitioners?


A Notary at Work, painting by Max Volkhart

The Evolution of Global Mobility

It’s an interesting discourse, no doubt. And brings into question a diverse range of complexities – just like the profession itself. Think about it. Being an “immigration lawyer” is a niche profession. Most traditional law firm practices do not have a specialized immigration department. Rather, immigration services are client-needs emerging from other cross-border practice areas, such as M&A.

In the spectrum of the legal profession, immigration-centric lawyers and boutique immigration law firms are relatively new – particularly in emerging migration markets. In fact, right now you are starting to see “immigration lawyers” surface – from Mexico to the Philippines. Remember, these are licensed practitioners – lawyers, advogados, юрист, avocat, 律师 – many multilingual with an international dimension to their academic and professional acumen:

Some lawyers have spun-off from larger organizations to grow a more boutique, client-oriented service in the space of mobility. Others have further developed this practice within larger firms that did not previously have such a specialized practice-area. Some lawyers cater to digital nomads, and some are actually digital nomad immigration lawyers, literally: Practicing Australian immigration law, and living in Jordan. A French Immigration lawyer posted in Mexico. U.S. Immigration Lawyer in Belgium. The list goes on...and it will.

What's on the Horizon?

Without getting into granular details, one can extract two formidable trends transpiring. On one hand, the relentless tide and ethos of global citizenship – where we will all live in a world as one, and movement across borders is as easy as making a reservation at a restaurant. On the other hand, the emergence of highly qualified global mobility practitioners that seek to cater to this movement of people across borders.

So, to address the title of this article: Extinction of the Immigration Lawyer? One can easily argue that this discipline is not yet endangered. Rather, it is a profession that is just starting to emerge, worldwide, and evolve into something more encompassing. The movement across borders is so much more than a visa-stamp, and immigration as a practice is not limited to one page on a passport.

As migration itself implies, it’s important to move with the times. And if a meteor strikes, well, perhaps we'll already have interplanetary mobility practitioners.

This article is a Relocate Community Article written by David Cantor, Founder & CEO of Relocate.

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