Think Immigration: Well-Being Tips for Paralegals

AILA Doc. No. 24050931. Well-Being

This blog post is part of our series in advance and during #AILAWellBeingWeek 2024, beginning May 6, 2024. We encourage you to take a look at the resources AILA has curated for all of our members and support staff. 

The legal field can be demanding with tight deadlines, many details to pay attention to, high-stress environments, and so on. Immigration law has its own unique challenges. Besides the normal stressors of working in a busy law office and meeting the regular deadlines and demands, we deal with dysfunctional governmental agencies, antiquated technologies, non-sensical procedures, and daily changes in guidance.   

I have been an immigration paralegal for over 22 years and yet every day is a new challenge. We all heard or read somewhere that the usual tips to survive in a highly stressful environment are keeping a work-life balance and establishing boundaries. This is often easier said than done, and it can be hard to practice self-care when there is so much to do every day. In my opinion, establishing healthy habits, practicing good time management skills, building a strong support system, and maintaining open communication in all aspects of your job is essential.  

Here are some strategies that work for me and might be helpful to you.  If I find that I am overwhelmed, I try to “leave the office for a little while,” maybe 10 to 15 minutes.  I take a walk outside (weather permitting); sometimes I just go online and browse something that brings me joy; or, sometimes I text a friend or relative. I do not get lost in these activities, but it serves as a means to an end to take the edge off my stress and help me refocus. 

There are days when work piles up high and I get stressed just looking at it. When I have that paralyzing feeling of “where do I start?” I make a list of all that I would like to accomplish that day. Then I number the items and prioritize what needs to come first. Visually seeing what needs to be done helps me stay on track, and there’s nothing more satisfying than crossing off successfully completed items! 

Here are some other practical things that I find extremely helpful: 

  • Help your attorney by always preparing files in the same way and putting documents in the same order (depending on the type of petition, of course). Add post-it notes for documents you believe are missing and for issues you can identify. That can streamline the process and save time for everyone. 
  • Create a routine for yourself for when you are helping your attorney prepare a case, such as before sending out a package, or for when you receive the Receipt Notice. Checklists are great tools! 
  • Use technology in your favor. Check your firm's policy on the use of AI and other technological resources. Make sure you are using all software to the best of its capabilities to maximize the use of your time. Keep updated on the latest developments. Technology can be an amazing time-saving tool or a terrible waste of time, depending on how you use it. 
  • Embrace empathy and cultural sensitivity. Keep your mind and heart open, always! For you, it might be just paperwork, but it is someone's life on the other side. That perspective can help ease the impact of the highly administrative aspects of our job. 
  • Stay updated, participate in as many free webinars and training sessions as you can. AILA has great resources and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Engagement and the Department of Labor also provide free training from time to time. The more knowledge you have, the more powerful you are!  
  • Always check the USCIS website before mailing a petition. Even if you just checked yesterday, make it a habit to check every single time. Things change all the time. If you can minimize errors, that decreases stress, although we all know we cannot eliminate Service error. 

There is stress in all professions, and ours, many times, is extraordinarily stressful. Try to look at the big picture because nothing lasts forever. My dear former boss of many years always kept the words below by his desk, to help put things into perspective. He passed away, and I now keep this with me:  

“There is a tide in the affairs of men 
Which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; 
Omitted, all the voyage of their life 
Is bound in shallows and in miseries. 
On such a full sea are we now afloat;
And we must take the current when it serves, 
Or lose our ventures.” 
― William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar 

**** Those interested in well-being are encouraged to take a look at the varied resources for AILA’s Well-Being Week and share ideas and insights on social media using the hashtag #AILAWellBeingWeek. 

About the Author:

Firm Littlefield & Peterson
Location Salt Lake City, Utah USA
Law School University of Sao Paulo
Join Date 6/3/24
Languages Portuguese, French, Spanish
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