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Utilizing the Law to Help Immigrants Legally Reside in the US With Susan Henner

Utilizing the Law to Help Immigrants Legally Reside in the US With Susan Henner

July 5, 2023   |   Written by Gladiator Law Marketing
Susan Henner Susan HennerSusan Henner is the Founder and Owner of Henner Law Group, PC, a full-service immigration law firm committed to helping immigrants obtain documentation to legally work in the US. Before founding her law firm in 2001, Susan worked for several large New York City law firms where her clients ranged from Fortune 500 companies to Wall Street firms to schools and hospitals. Susan is also a mentor attorney for the Safe Passage Program at New York Law School, assisting unaccompanied minors find pro bono immigration representation. Additionally, she was a founding board member and served as Vice President of the organization. Susan is also the former co-chair of the Westchester County Bar Association’s Committee for Immigration and Nationality Law.
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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • Susan Henner explains the areas of legal expertise her firm offers clients
  • The process of attaining a visa
  • How Susan acquires and retains clients
  • Susan shares what inspired her passion for immigration law
  • The challenges Susan faced when starting her law firm
  • What is the purpose of the Safe Passage Program?
  • Susan encourages aspiring attorneys to find their passion in the legal industry

In this episode…

Did you know to work in the United States you must be a legal resident? In most cases, someone who immigrated to the US possesses a visa, work permit, green card, or US citizenship before being authorized to work. But who’s responsible for providing the documentation? How long do these types of cases last? Immigration law is complex. If you’re an employer or individual inquiring about the process, you should seek the services of an immigration law firm. These firms focus on providing immigrants with legal documentation and understand the nuances of the law. Also, realize that obtaining documentation to work or become a US citizen is a timely process that requires patience. In this episode of 15 Minutes, join Bela Musits as he welcomes Susan Henner, Founder and Owner of the Henner Law Group, PC, to discuss immigration law. Susan shares why she’s passionate about immigration law, the challenges she overcame when launching her firm, and how she acquires and retains clients. She also explains the process of obtaining a US visa and shares her involvement with the Safe Passage Program.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, where we deliver tailor-made services to help you accomplish your objectives and maximize your growth potential. To have a successful marketing campaign and make sure you’re getting the best ROI, your firm needs to have a better website and better content. At Gladiator Law Marketing, we use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com or schedule a free marketing consultation. You can also send an email to adam@gladiatorlawmarketing.com.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:01   You’re listening to 15 Minutes, where we feature community leaders sharing what the rest of us should know but likely don’t. Bela Musits  0:12   Hi, listeners Bela Musits, host for this episode of the 15 Minutes: Share Your Voice Podcast, where we talk with top notch law firms and attorneys about what it takes to grow a successful law practice. This episode is brought to you by Gladiator Law Marketing, delivering tailor made services to help your law firm accomplish its objectives and maximize your growth potential to have a successful marketing campaign. And to make sure you’re getting the best return on your investment. Your firm needs to have a better website and better content marketing. Gladiator Law uses artificial intelligence, machine learning and decades of experience to outperform the competition. To learn more, go to gladiatorlawmarketing.com where you can schedule a free marketing consultation. Today’s guest on the podcast is Susan Henner. She is the Founder of Henner Law Group, which she started in 2001. Susan focuses solely on immigration matters. And her client lists spans fortune 500 companies, startups and individuals where she handles all types of immigration matters. Welcome to the podcast, Susan. Susan Henner  1:22   Thank you. Thank you for having me. Bela Musits  1:25   Sure. So tell us a little bit about the firm and you know, some specific practice areas? Well, Susan Henner  1:31   we are solely within the immigration field. We’re based in White Plains, New York, but because immigration is federal, we could practice anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world. Our clients, either our employers or individuals both, which is great. And typically we help employers to get visas green cards, work permits for their employees, or other times we help employees who were in need of immigration services to get visas, green cards and other immigration related services. Bela Musits  2:09   Yeah, I think, you know, I certainly didn’t realize this early in my career, that if you’re not a legal resident of the United States, If a company wants to hire you to work for them, there are some things that need to be taken care of. And that’s what you assist with? Yes, exactly. Susan Henner  2:29   You either need a visa or work permit or a green card, or to be a citizen in order to be authorized to legally work here in the US. It’s not like you could come here as a visitor and just sort of work similar to, you know, if someone from the US if we were to go abroad to Europe, for example, we can’t just walk into the UK and just start working, you have to have special permits to do so. Right. Right. Bela Musits  2:56   And it’s the employers responsibility to make sure that that person is authorized or can legally work here. Is that correct? Susan Henner  3:04   In most cases, yes. No, I say there are some categories where the employee is responsible for getting a visa. And there’s a special cases like actors, or someone who’s coming green or on a student visa, then the person seeking to work or study would be responsible for getting their own visa. But if it’s a company looking to hire an employee, the employer is generally responsible for helping to obtain that visa or work permission. Bela Musits  3:37   And how does let’s say I’m a company, and I found the perfect employee, but they happen to be from Germany. How long does the process take for me to kind of go through all of this? Susan Henner  3:50   Usually, it depends on what type of visa we’re doing. So there are lots of different non immigrant visa categories, which allows a worker to come here temporarily. Their visa is based on someone who has a professional degree and is coming here for a certain number of years. There are intercompany transfer visas, which are called an L visa. So if the company has, for example, an office in Germany and what happens for that employee, that’s pretty quick, a couple of months for a visa, and the visa could be for up to seven years. And then there are visas like erases where a company is investing in a new business or an existing business, the US and we actually have to create a business plan and show the investment and do all sorts of things to get the company up and ready to do business in the US and then we apply for the visa. Oh, wow. Yeah. Bela Musits  4:48   And you’ve been doing this since 2001. So has have things gotten more complicated or have they gotten easier as time has gone by? Susan Henner  4:59   I would say more are complicated. I’ve been working in the field since 95. I’ve been on my 2001. But I would say, you know, back in the day, it was definitely less stringent, less requirements. And it seems to be on to the last two administrations, there seem to be more requirements added. And USCIS has more rules regarding to each and every year, they refine the case law, and they refine the regulations. But there’s never been a complete immigration overhaul which needs to be done with the whole system. So that’s hopefully coming. And we’ve been talking about there for years. Yeah. Bela Musits  5:45   And so how big is your law firm? How many attorneys are there? And Susan Henner  5:49   we have three attorneys and paralegals. We have two and we have some summer interns and a receptionist and, you know, we focus only on immigration law, which is very interesting. I think a lot of firms try to dabble in immigration, enough for where you really need to focus and know, the changes in the law, what’s changing every day, because there’s new information that comes out just about every day in the fields. Bela Musits  6:21   Yeah, it really does seem like a subspecialty of law. And one where, you know, you don’t want to have someone who dabbles in brain surgery, you want to have someone who does it every day. And I think that’s a good analogy here as well. Susan Henner  6:36   Yeah, for sure. I feel like a lot of clients, especially if it’s an individual case, like say, you have someone from India who wants to bring over mom and dad, they’re here with me, or they’re citizens. A lot of times, they’re apt to hire someone just from their home country, or because that lawyers speak their language, rather than look for a lawyer who’s most qualified. And they can end up in quite a bit of hot water. And a lot of time, I ended up bailing out people who’ve made mistakes and having to start the case over again. And we see that there’s sometimes just some not so great lawyers out there who practice immigration law, who think they could do it just because they speak other languages. Yeah. Bela Musits  7:23   So you said you do you have corporate clients, and you have individuals? Let’s talk about the corporate clients for a little bit. How do you how do you get those customers? How do they find you? Susan Henner  7:36   A lot of it’s word of mouth. Some of it is from HR representatives to someone in human resources will find us especially, you know, in the New York tri state area, though, look up, but you know, from advertising or just online, or from word of mouth, from other companies, who did you use to get visas for your employees? And they’ll come to us and they’ll say, you know, we have a student who’s working here with a visa, and we’d like to convert them to a real work visa, or get a green card, and we’ll start the process that way. Refer them from a lot of times from other lawyers, you know, I’ll get other lawyer who does real estate, for example, and they’ll say, I had a client who asked me the other day, they need a visa, can you help with that? And so we’ll get a lot of referrals that way as well. And often, you know, it’s a company, someone who’s just a business owner, and they say, you know, we need to transfer employees from overseas or bring them in, can you help us with that process? Just knowing that that’s what we do? Yeah, sir. For the employer, Bela Musits  8:48   it’s it sounds like, this is a process that employers also need to plan for, because it’s going to take some time. This is this is it’s not going to take a month, it sounds like it because you said the easy one takes like three months. Yeah. So it’s something that an employer, if they’re thinking about this really needs to start, start planning it and engaging with yourself. But to start the process and get it going. Susan Henner  9:17   Exactly, yeah. I mean, sometimes we’ll get an employer says I need this person here in like three weeks since like, oh, and you could pay certain expedite fees, in some cases, to try to get a visa approved very quickly if the employer really has the need, but those are at $2,500 immigration charges to expedite it. And the fastest you could get it approved even from the day you submit it is 15 business days. Okay, so the expedite, just, you know, something to know in advance. Yeah. Bela Musits  9:50   Yeah. And so what about the individuals? Because you also do this for individuals. How do those clients find Susan Henner  9:56   you? A lot of again, word of mouth out also within certain communities. So for example, if I help someone in the Ecuadorian community, and they like my services, they’ll refer people at their church, people within their community, people they know need help. I also had one gentleman who was detained down in Texas for a long time, and he referred the person next to him in the cell next to him in the cell. Next, I had a bunch of inmates at the same ICE facility, who we were able to help even though they were from different backgrounds in different countries. So that often happens as well. Bela Musits  10:37   Yeah. Well, it sounds like, like with many service, businesses, reputation is really important. And and that reputation gets spread, you know, from existing clients to and that’s one of the great feeders are there are there outbound things that you do to get clients. Susan Henner  10:59   We do some SEO optimization on our website, we definitely do a little bit of online advertising, Google, Google Maps that type. There are also some legal organizations that, you know, we do services through that, you know, would recommend our services or discounts. I also volunteer a lot in the community. So I law school, I’m a mentor for younger students. So we do take some pro bono cases, and the theater to other cases and pain cases, once your name is out there. You know, people know that you do a good job. And they say, Well, you know, can you help this client for a little bit of a reduced fee? And most times, we’re able to do that, because I have my own firm. And that’s the beauty of it. Bela Musits  11:55   Yes, very nice. Now, one of the things you mentioned is that this is sort of as a sub specialty. So you that you do get clients or referrals from other attorneys, maybe a real estate attorney or a corporate attorney or something. How do you reach out to those clients? Those those attorneys, I should say, how do you get your name out to these other law firms that that this is your sub specialty, and they shouldn’t be referring their special cases to you? Susan Henner  12:25   Well, one thing is local bar associations. So I was the head of the Westchester County Bar Association has an immigration committee. I served on that for many years, and I was the head, you know, the co chair for that. I speak in the community a lot. We’re doing a speaker series at the end of next month on immigration law and criminal law. So we’ll be speaking to lawyers of the Yonkers Bar Association. So that’s another way. And I belong to a networking group, which has mostly it’s called USA 500. And we associated mostly with other professionals, which include mainly lawyers, accountants, CPAs. And it’s meeting other people in the field, you’re constantly going out there meeting people and talking about what we do. Bela Musits  13:18   Excellent, excellent. You know, there’s a fair number of other attorneys who listen to this podcast. That’s, that’s one of the markets. And so I think this notion of this proactive outreach that you do, Bar Association’s giving talks, and getting involved in the community and getting involved in a professional community is really important. What sort of percentage of time do you devote to that? Susan Henner  13:42   I would say every week, a few hours, for sure. You know, I am on two boards in my community for my children’s school. Also, people know what I do, you know, definitely eating or two a week with, you know, I’m in a women’s networking group. Also. There’s a meeting tomorrow night for that, for example. And then next week is the USA 500. And then, you know, as part of that, you’re required to have smaller group breakfasts or dinners or coffees or meetups where you’re meeting one on one with the people in the group. So I’d say every week, or, you know, we’re trying I’m trying to get out there and meet people and speak about what I do. And I think that’s really, really important and that people don’t realize how important that is to growing your business. Bela Musits  14:32   Yeah, yeah. Excellent. So let’s go way back. What sort of what made you decide to become an attorney? Susan Henner  14:41   Or an attorney? That’s a good one. I think back in college, I actually started off as an art student, and I, you know, very creative everything else. And at the same time, I was taking an international law class, and I just fell in love with the class and I switched my Major, and that was it. It was just from there. And then when I was in law school, what drew me to immigration law I was, I was mostly interested in international law, and they didn’t have a lot of opportunities for international law. For American students. They wanted to work at the United Nations. They said, Oh, no, we reserved that for our foreign students. I’m not working at Qatar basin, which is the Central American refugee center, and working with asylees, and refugees, and I loved it. And then one of my professors hired me to write a book with him. And then from there, I worked for an immigration firm third year, and the rest was just it just followed naturally. Yeah, Bela Musits  15:47   yeah. And when you graduated from law school, you went to work for another, another firm. Susan Henner  15:52   I worked for a couple of firms. My first few years, I did the big firm thing, I worked for the major immigration firms that exist in the country. And I loved it, I did, but it was mostly corporate based. And I wanted to really focus on individuals as well, I sort of liked that piece as well, where you did the asylum cases and felt like you were making a difference. I felt like there’s a balance between the corporate and the individual cases. And it was hard to do that at a bigger firm. And it was also hard to manage being I was just getting married, and I wanted kids and, you know, to balance that corporate home life also. So in 2001, I opened my own firm. And it’s I fit on my own ever since and now slowly growing our firm, for sure. Bela Musits  16:48   So what were what were some of the I mean, nobody stepped back. What did you like, wake up one day and said, Okay, I’m going to open my own firm, or was it more of a thought provoking longer process? Susan Henner  17:02   It was really longer it was, you know, I had tried working for several large firms. And I just said, I don’t think I could do this. And balance having a family buried and everything else. It just seemed like, you know, the firm’s were you had to be there 730 In the morning, you couldn’t leave before a certain time. Literally, back then we had beepers, you know, you’d go out to lunch. It was just being on that type of of beckon call all the time, it was just too much to do all at once. And a few of my clients were not happy with the larger law firm setup. And, you know, so I talked to them, and they said, We’d come with you, if you if you did your own things. For your for that came with me when I went on my own. And that was that. And literally, I didn’t have a lot of money. I just started in a shared office space with three or four clients. And you know, I started advertising and the rest is history. And now we’re, you know, I have literally hundreds and hundreds of cases. Bela Musits  18:15   Yeah, yeah. What we’re, if you reflect back on on that those early days of starting your own firm, what were some of the sort of unexpected challenges that you came across? Susan Henner  18:28   I think, learning how to do certain things, how do you put together a retainer agreement, how to maintain an escrow account, you know, things like that, that no one teaches you. But there are organizations like for immigration, there’s American Immigration Lawyers Association, which you join, and they have a new member committee where you, you know, you could sit in on certain courses for that, and learn how to do that, and being educated about that. So it was a matter of learning it. And speaking to other lawyers who had started their own firm, you some of the bar committees have new member committees, where you connect with other people, you know, in different fields and just saying, Hey, can I take a look at your retainer agreement? What has to be in there and connecting with the Bar Association say, what are the requirements for advertising? What can I or can’t I do? You know, learning how to do that? Yeah, Bela Musits  19:24   yeah. Yeah, that’s a good point. Because when you join a big firm, all of that stuff sort of magically happens. When you have to have your own firm, it doesn’t magically happen and you or someone else needs to figure out how to how to do that. Susan Henner  19:40   Voicing is difficult, you know, what do you do when your client doesn’t pay? You know, what type of billing or payments or payment arrangements do you have with the clients? Bela Musits  19:52   Yeah, yeah. So, let me ask you this, this other question here. So are there You know, as many professions are, they’re dominated by by certain types of individuals. And in this case, I’m thinking male and female. Right? It’s and attorneys seem pretty heavily dominated by males. Have there been extra challenges for you? Being being a woman in the legal field? Susan Henner  20:23   Feel so much in this field? I feel like immigrations, nice mix of men and women. I haven’t felt like that. So that part of it. Yeah. Good. Bela Musits  20:36   I’m glad. I’m glad to hear that. You said that you were doing some outreach and into your work where you went to law school? And are you mentoring some some folks now, Susan Henner  20:51   I work with a group called the Safe Passage Program. And I helped found that program years ago with one of my old professors. And what it is, it’s helping children at the border who come in who are undocumented, and it’s finding them appropriate representation within the legal community. And we also were mentoring other attorneys to teach them how to do this type of work, whether it’s in law school, or following law school. So a lot of you know, I’ll do some pro bono work for them, or certain times, I’ll get a call from them saying, we help this lawyer and teach them how to do this type of case or that type of case. And that’s, it’s fun. And, you know, I used to go down probably once a month, down to Federal Plaza, which is where our immigration is located. And we would really stand up as a friend of the court and stand up for the children until they found a lawyer. But now they have a whole staff. I mean, I think they have a staff of 2526 people, it’s a past which has grown so much that they don’t need us to do that anymore. But I’m still on their panel as a mentor, attorney, and when someone needs help they do reach out to us, which is great. Bela Musits  22:07   Yeah, excellent. That’s really great. Was there someone in your career that that mentored you or sort of gave you great advice that you’d like to mention? Susan Henner  22:19   I think that would be the professor I worked with, who’s Lenny Benson, and she’s just amazing. And she’s the one who founded Safe Passage, and I served on the board with her. And she’s really an inspiration. And, you know, from time to time, she’ll reach out to me and say, I have this, you know, person who reached out to me and they don’t qualify through Safe Passage, can you help them? And we do we all work together and try to help those in need when when it comes up. So it’s it’s rewarding, which is why I love my fields. I’m not sitting behind a desk doing paperwork all day. Bela Musits  22:56   Yeah. Excellent. That sounds wonderful. So if there’s someone listening to this, who’s thinking about becoming an attorney? Do you have any words of advice for them? Susan Henner  23:09   Hmm. I think it’s finding your passion finding it is what you love to do within the fields of law. So it doesn’t feel like work. To me, this doesn’t feel like work every day, I feel like every day I come in, and I feel like it’s very rewarding. It’s challenging, but I feel like I’m really helping keep up. For example, I have a case on Friday that’s coming up, and we’re going to end up getting green cards for this family. And they have a special needs child who is in a wheelchair who has cerebral palsy, and they’ve been here for 20 years, and the child is probably 1011 years old. And they know they cannot take this child back to their country and get the child services. Yeah, we’ve already talked to the government and this family is going to end up because of what we did for them and being able to stay here forever and permanently. And to me, it just, it’s just a beautiful thing to watch. The family gets to stay together, they get to be here, and they come permanent residents of this country. And I feel like that’s what, you know, we’re based on this whole country, and it’s just a very rewarding experience. Bela Musits  24:22   Yeah, that’s a great, that’s a great story. Susan Henner  24:25   Yeah. And I think once you find your passion and law, whether it’s real estate or criminal law, or immigration, whatever it is that you like to do, it doesn’t feel like work. And I think that’s the most important thing. Yeah. Bela Musits  24:39   So earlier, you had talked a little bit about work life balance, and that, you know, in a big law firm, as an associate or a junior partner, that’s a real challenge. What again, what kind of advice would you have for maybe a young attorney who’s you know, getting ready to graduate or will be graduating Sure. early, in his considering going joining a big firm or maybe a small boutique firm like yourself, or, you know, maybe hanging their own shingle. What kind of thoughts do you have they’re Susan Henner  25:12   working in the big firm, also, I started gave me all the skills that I needed to eventually go out on my own. I think it was definitely very valuable. There was nothing that I didn’t learn. And I feel like I saw every type of case, so that when it came time to go on my own, there’s no case that walked through my door that I haven’t seen before. So I think it’s really important to learn the correct way, whether it’s finding a mentor, or working at a firm that’s going to teach you or getting those skills before you just go at it alone. I think, for me, personally, I thought it would be very scary just to say, Okay, I’m gonna do this or not having any background at all. I’m thinking because, again, you’re working with people, you’re serving the public, you want to do it right. Yeah. I feel like a lot of attorneys, a great way to do it. Also, for example, if you’re interested in criminal law, look at Legal Aid or look at the DHS office. Those are great organizations, or, you know, Bronx defenders here in New York, great organizations that will train you that will mentor you before you make that leap to open your own practice or go out on your own creative ways to Bela Musits  26:30   learn. That’s wonderful, wonderful advice. So if people want to find out more about you, and the firm, what’s the best place for them to do that? Susan Henner  26:42   We have a website, it’s WhitePlainsImmigrationLawyer.com. So that’s one way and we have a lot of information on there. You know, or they could feel free to reach out to me, our contact information is there. I’m on, you know, definitely on email. I definitely we do free consultations, if anyone has immigration questions, or we hire interns and, you know, people are looking for, to get into the field, I always give advice, and I talked to law students a lot about how to break into the fields and where they should start. Bela Musits  27:20   That’s great. That’s really gracious of you to do that. So starting to wrap up here, is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to share with our listeners? Susan Henner  27:30   Um, I think it’s just you. The one thing is just to know about immigration law in general is, you know, with all the changes and everything with COVID, it’s just important to understand that things are taking longer than they used to, you know, the consulates basically shut down for two years all over the country, the State Department had pulled back consular officers, USCIS is working slower than it ever has. And it’s a shame that the clients get upset. And they think it’s the lawyers fault. It’s like, Oh, why is my case taking so long? And, you know, sometimes they try to switch lawyers or switch firms and things like that. And it’s not always the attorneys fault in any given situation. So, you know, I just like to remind people of that, but, you know, I’ll get people who will call me as a client yesterday, who called a potential client, who said, My lawyers not doing my job, their job, they’re my case is taking this amount of time. And then you look it up. And you say, well, that’s how long they’re taking in general, you can switch to my firm, but I’m not going to be able to do so much more than you know, this other attorney. You have a good attorney, stick with them. And that’s just something to remind clients and people watching this that lawyers are not magicians. We still have to work within the system and the laws the as they are. Bela Musits  28:59   Yeah. Great, great advice. wonderful way to wrap up. Susan, thank you so much for being a guest on the podcast. You were wonderful. I really enjoyed our conversation. Susan Henner  29:09   Thank you so much. Outro  29:13   Thanks for listening to 15 Minutes. Be sure to subscribe and we’ll see you next time.

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