Software for the Immigration Practitioner

Vol. 30 No. 5

By

Marshall Cohen (cohen@antoniniandcohen.com) is Managing Partner of Antonini and Cohen Immigration Law Group in Atlanta, Georgia. Karol Brown (karol@karolbrown.com) is the principal in Karol Brown, Attorney at Law, PLLC, in Bellevue, Washington, focused on business and family immigration law. Douglas R. Penn (dpenn@attorneypenn.com) is the principal in the Law Office of Douglas R. Penn, LLC, in Stamford, Connecticut. Kirby Gamblin Joseph (kirby@immigrationissues.com) is Managing Partner of Joseph Law Firm, PC, with offices in Aurora and Colorado Springs, Colorado. A prior version of this article appeared in the spring 2013 issue of Immigration Practice News, published by the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

Case and practice management products can be great tools for lawyers and firms to increase profitability, improve efficiency, and deliver terrific client service. In the last five years, a number of cloud-based case and practice management products have been gaining traction with lawyers, and nowhere is this trend more evident than in the field of immigration law. So who better to provide a review of several of these products than attorneys from the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)?

Four well-respected AILA members undertook a review of four of the most popular and widely used cloud-based case and practice management products, focusing on ease of use, the breadth of their tools and their functionality, customer support, and pricing. Here’s what our panel of authors has to say about INSZoom, EIMMIGRATION, ImmigrationTracker, and LawLogix.

 

INSZoom

By Marshall Cohen

INSZoom (inszoom.com) bills itself as “the world’s largest immigration software company,” claiming more than a thousand immigration law firm and corporate users. Founded in 1999, the company also supplies forms for more than 90 countries. INSZoom offers immigration case management, website services, I-9 compliance, and E-Verify solutions. This review will focus solely on the immigration case management product.

INSZoom is cloud-based and boasts “the most secure data protection and availability system on the market.” When choosing a case management software program, an attorney should first speak with the provider regarding the program’s data security and stability.

A cloud-based system makes the most sense for a case management system. The cloud-based provider performs all storage, update, and maintenance seamlessly without involvement of the end user. This eliminates the costly and potentially risky performance of these tasks by the attorney, office staff, or hired IT professional. Also, a cloud-based system allows one to connect remotely from any device with an Internet connection.

Accuracy and quality. Accuracy and quality depend entirely on data entry, whether it is performed by the client or by the attorney or staff. The questionnaires are generally intuitive and easy to understand. Like most immigration case management systems, the questionnaire can be delivered in several languages for the convenience of the client.

Once the client completes the questionnaire, the program populates the selected forms with that data. As with the other programs, INSZoom tracks the government’s form revisions and additions. The user can generally trust that the form being generated is the most current version.

Breadth of features/functionality. The questionnaires are extensive and complete, as are the reports. INSZoom allows customization of questionnaires, reports, e-mail and correspondence templates, and reminders. Standard reports include tracking of open ticklers/reminders and deadlines, invoicing, and attorney or staff caseload. All in all, the breadth and functionality are more than enough for any size law firm, regardless of caseload.

Ease of use. INSZoom would be extremely difficult to use effectively without extensive training. The user interface is not entirely intuitive and takes getting used to. As with most programs, an understanding of the internal logic, framework, and setup of the program comes with continued use.

Pricing model. INSZoom charges an initial $500 setup fee along with a fee for data migration and a monthly license fee of $100 per user. If you have been using another program, INSZoom will charge fees beginning at $1,000 to migrate data from your current program to INSZoom. Before signing a contract with INSZoom, make sure to get in writing the extent of the migration, including a list of all the fields. As with the initial training, the data migration fee is negotiable.

Customer service/training. Customer support is one of the most important factors, if not the most important factor, in choosing a software case management program. This is the result of the inherent complexity of the program and the crucial role it plays in fulfilling an attorney’s obligations to the client. Before making a long-term commitment of considerable time and expense, thoroughly investigate the quality of customer support. I recommend speaking with colleagues who have used the program as well as reading independent online reviews.

INSZoom provides an adequate level of up-front phone and webinar training. Before choosing INSZoom, negotiate the level of initial training, including in-office training if so desired.

Bottom line. I found INSZoom to provide adequate case management. Like the other case management programs reviewed, it contains the following basic tools: integrated calendar; contact management and address book; dated and prioritized reminders/tasks with deadline management and customization for each type of case; client questionnaires; fillable forms; reporting; e-mailing; billing; time tracking; visa priority tracking; communication templates; and limited document storage.

EIMMIGRATION

By Karol Brown

Cerenade’s EIMMIGRATION (cerenade.com/eimmigration) is a comprehensive and intuitive immigration case management system that provides updated immigration forms, online client questionnaires, contact management, reminders for expiration dates and deadlines, one-time data entry, free form notes for telephone calls and research findings, and automated document/e-mail templates.

One of the best features of EIMMIGRATION is that it is a cloud-based software system. Wherever you have Internet access, you have access to all the information in your case management system. You never have to worry about the latest version of a form because EIMMIGRATION updates your software for you and backs up your vital client data.

Accuracy and quality. EIMMIGRATION allows clients to complete online questionnaires, which are reviewed and accepted directly into your database, preventing errors and typos. New information may be entered into the database or typed directly into forms. As the attorney or paralegal updates information, the data flows through automatically to other forms, eliminating duplicate entries and reducing the possibility of errors.

Breadth of features/functionality. EIMMIGRATION has customization options to meet the specific needs of your law office. Cerenade provides standard processes, questionnaires, and reports to begin using the system without weeks of setup. As you use the system, you can tweak these standard processes or create new processes to match your office procedures. The reporting features come with numerous options. You can view the “tickler” report to easily identify expiring documents and process step deadlines or cases by type. Advanced reporting options provide greater flexibility, allowing you to search the database and produce just the information you need. These reports can be exported to an Excel spreadsheet or other application to enable even more ways to view, sort, and analyze the information in your system.

Ease of use. The interface is simple and straightforward. The home page gives quick access to all the features. The layout of the information is intuitive but powerful enough to store multiple phone numbers, address history, employment records, and educational background. The client’s document history can be stored to enable the system to track any type of critical expiration dates. You can even store your thoughts, questions, and other data that may not fit in traditional database forms. Family relationships can be easily tracked, connecting different contacts in the database. Switching to another family member is as easy as clicking a link next to his or her name.

Pricing model. Pricing for EIMMIGRATION is perhaps the best reason to use this system. Monthly fees are $55 per user per month, plus a $400 site setup and training fee. There is no per-case charge and also no annual charge for storing large amounts of data, as there is with LawLogix and other software models. The cost of the software is so low, there is no need to pass these costs onto your clients as an additional fee.

Customer service/training. Cerenade’s staff is friendly and knowledgeable. They are available by phone (8:00 am to 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time) or e-mail (24/7).

EIMMIGRATION offers a free online webinar every week. The webinars are a great way for new staff members to quickly get up to speed on the software. There is also an online video library that walks through commonly requested features, as well as numerous FAQ articles. All this support is offered free of charge. You may also request customized webinar training sessions, for a reasonable fee.

Bottom line. Perhaps EIMMIGRATION’s best feature is that it enables you to create accurate, reliable forms quickly and easily. In my office, a client can come in for a consultation and decide to hire us, and my staff can create the necessary immigration forms to sign in the time it takes me to review the representation agreement. My corporate clients love the online interface because it allows them to see the case status, deadlines, and documents needed for all their employees. My clients in different time zones or with intense work schedules appreciate the ability to provide information, upload documents, track the progress of their case, or review draft forms anytime, anywhere. And I enjoy being able to access all the information in my case management system from my office, a hotel poolside, or my living room recliner.

ImmigrationTracker

By Douglas R. Penn

ImmigrationTracker (trackercorp.com/immigration-software.php) is a solid, immigration-specific case management tool for small and solo attorneys. Its features include integrated forms and processes, one-time data entry, management of deadlines and reminders, standard and customizable e-mail and document templates, status updates, visa priority tracking, reporting tools, and access to links and resources for immigration-related issues. ImmigrationTracker is a cloud-based case management application that allows users to log in remotely from a computer.

Accuracy and quality. ImmigrationTracker clearly is designed with the recognition that most clients will have multiple processes. It is simple to create a new process for a client and build the new forms quickly and accurately. Additionally, updating information for derivative family members is also convenient.

Breadth of features/functionality. Report generation is very good. There is a good selection of standard reports that are useful internally within the firm and externally with clients. Reports include staff productivity and workload reports, upcoming deadlines, and contact information.

Data entry during client intake is straightforward. There is a good mix of set fields to be completed and open space for notes and comments. In addition, e-mail templates can be easily customized to meet your firm’s specific needs. You can also create custom letters, although this is more cumbersome than the e-mail template creation.

Much of an immigration practice’s back-office IT work—maintaining current forms, updated processes, and client data backup—is handled directly by ImmigrationTracker. ImmigrationTracker updates the forms on an ongoing basis and alerts users when a form has been updated. Data is stored on ImmigrationTracker’s server and not on the firm’s server; however, this does not eliminate the need for a firm to have its own backup system.

ImmigrationTracker also has licenses for Microsoft Office 2007 (Outlook, Word, and Excel), which can be a benefit for solo attorneys or small firms.

The system allows an attorney or paralegal to log on to ImmigrationTracker from any computer and have full access to data and case information with form generation and editing capability. I have found this accessibility useful in allowing staff to work from home, and it has become a part of my firm’s contingency planning. The online access does require disclosures to clients and training and procedures on Internet security for staff. Also, there is an appreciable lag in printing and saving forms in PDF format. This is especially noticeable when transitioning between using ImmigrationTracker and using locally installed applications.

Ease of use. Once you have been properly trained, you will find ImmigrationTracker to be fairly straightforward and intuitive to use. Information is easy to enter and generally very easy to edit and update. After the client’s records have been entered, there are multiple ways to access, search, and sort the client’s data. ImmigrationTracker has one weakness: Electronic filings are not as easy to use (principally with forms for the U.S. Department of Labor, but also with the U.S. State Department’s DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ few electronically fillable forms).

Pricing model. The pricing module for ImmigrationTracker is based on a quarterly license fee of $315 for each user, regardless of the number of cases. Although this pricing structure does not let you pass along the cost to the client, it is a stable pricing model, which makes budgeting easier. As noted above, this also includes a license for Microsoft Office 2007.

Customer service/training. ImmigrationTracker’s staff is always responsive and knowledgeable and provides excellent customer service. To utilize ImmigrationTracker most effectively, training is essential. Training sessions take the form of webinars. Standard training sessions are free, but there are also private webinar training sessions and even in-person training sessions for an additional fee.

Bottom line. One of ImmigrationTracker’s greatest strengths is the ability to quickly and easily import data from linked client records. ImmigrationTracker also has a robust system for locating client records. It integrates well with Microsoft Office products and can be used to supplement system backups. ImmigrationTracker also provides additional IT functions that can be very useful when starting a solo or small firm immigration practice.

LawLogix

By Kirby Gamblin Joseph

LawLogix (lawlogix.com), an Internet-based case management software designed specifically for immigration practices, helps to reduce the amount of time spent on managing cases. LawLogix provides several features that allow you to manage your cases from start to finish, including address book, integrated forms, one-time data entry, management of deadlines and reminders, client questionnaires, document templates, status updates, visa priority tracking, integrated calendar, reporting tools access to links and resources for immigration-related issues, and many other features. The software also provides clients with a login for access to their case.

Accuracy and quality. By accessing and completing online intake questionnaires, clients are able to submit information to be reviewed by their attorney/paralegal. Information is easily edited by the user. Forms are updated as necessary by LawLogix so that you are always accessing the most up-to-date version of every form. Also, new immigration processes are released by LawLogix as they become available for use in the case management system. The relational databases increase accuracy and quality because information is only entered once and is automatically populated to other areas and forms within the case management system.

Breadth of features/functionality. LawLogix has many tools available to users. Reports are very customizable and available for any function imaginable. The majority of the forms are easy to edit and update; however, some fields on certain forms can be tricky. LawLogix has a client interface that allows clients to access various tools, including: questionnaires, forms, list of documents required, activities lists showing tasks and dates completed, storage and viewing of documents uploaded, and links to government resources, as well as the ability to check on case status using uploaded receipt notices and a link to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Ease of use. The user interface for LawLogix is very straightforward and easy to learn and use. It is also simple for clients to access and use.

Pricing model. LawLogix charges a very low monthly user fee ($9.95 per user per month) and a case fee for each immigration matter opened within the system ($29.95 to $49.95, depending on various plan options). The benefit of this type of pricing model is that you can easily pass the case fees onto your clients as a value-added service that provides convenient online case status updates, a wide variety of reports, and quicker case processing overall. By allowing you to pass this cost onto your clients, LawLogix becomes much more economical to a firm than some of the other case management software programs on the market.

Customer service/training. LawLogix is always responsive and knowledgeable, providing excellent customer service. Software is only as good as the training you receive. It is important to invest in training on the software in order to effectively and efficiently utilize it to its full potential. LawLogix does provide free training, telephone support, online chat, and webinars. In addition, LawLogix offers in-person professional user certification programs for an additional fee. Failure to invest in training is likely to lead to disappointment with the product.

Bottom line. LawLogix as a whole offers a complete immigration case management program that can be easily utilized by immigration law firms and clients. Overall it is an excellent program. Any problems that arise are always quickly addressed by LawLogix, and LawLogix is always open to suggestions on how to improve their system. They continue to work toward making the program even more user friendly. 

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