Posts Tagged ‘bashyam spiro llp’

Bashyam Spiro 15th Anniversary Memory #1: Why Immigration Law?

November 17th, 2010
posted by at 2:53 pm

Murali Bashyam's First Bashyam Spiro Business Card

We’ve often been asked by clients and other attorneys why we chose to focus on Immigration and Nationality Law.  I’ve always responded with the same five words – because we help good people.

As a law firm, however, we didn’t always have that clarity.

Juggling several legal practice areas

When we started the firm 15 years ago, we were handling corporate, family, criminal and Federal litigation cases.  We also handled a few immigration cases, mostly because I was of Indian origin.  People I knew in the Indian community would ask me questions, and I would then do some research and provide them with a legal solution.

Over the following two years, we continued to handle these different areas of law.  It was just myself and partner, Robert Spiro, at the time, so we had a lot on our plate!  In addition, more people started asking us to handle their immigration cases, and we started focusing more of our time in this area of the law.

Focusing on Immigration

Although we enjoyed the different areas of law we practiced, the immigrants we were helping started making an impression on us.  We were good at immigration law, and the people we helped were grateful for the positive impact we had on their lives.

After just two years in practice, we decided to focus on just one area of law.  But what would that area of law be?  There were compelling reasons for all of them. We wanted to pick one and be great at it.

Sunday Best

One Sunday afternoon 13 years ago, my law partner and I put a whiteboard up in our old conference room. We wrote each area of law that we were considering down along with a ‘pros’ and ‘cons’ next to each, and started brainstorming.

Thinking back on that Sunday, it really was a defining moment for our law firm.  Generally speaking, solo practitioners and small firms tend to be ‘general practice’ firms that handled multiple areas of law.  From an economic standpoint, it’s almost always necessary for small firms to branch out like that.  However, we decided to take the risk and cut our practice back to one area of law. And after much debate that Sunday afternoon, we chose Immigration law.

Why Immigration law?

Compared to other areas of law, we didn’t consider Immigration law to be that financially lucrative.  Also, Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of law a lawyer can practice.  The laws are constantly changing, and it’s not easy dealing with a Government bureaucracy on a daily basis.  There are a lot of inefficiencies in the system that can lead to extreme frustration.

What made it worthwhile, however, was interacting with our immigration clients.  These were good people, and we felt that we were making a real positive impact on their lives.

Whether it was helping them with a work visa, or helping them unite with a family member, it was helping them that mattered most.  We knew that these clients would contribute to the United States in a very positive way, and that made dealing with the ‘cons’ of Immigration law easy to ignore.

Reflecting on our decision

Our law firm continues to focus solely on Immigration law.  We have helped thousands of immigrants realize their dream of living or working in America.   And as we celebrate our firm’s 15th anniversary this December, I can’t help but reflect on that important decision we made in our conference room on a sunny Sunday 13 years ago.

Bashyam Spiro Staff Celebrate Love, Food and Life at the NC State Fair

October 25th, 2010
posted by at 7:32 pm

What better way to take a load off of wedding planning and preparation than spending some time eating and laughing at the NC State Fair?

When my thoughtful colleague, Pam, approached me a few weeks ago to say that the office wanted to try to pull a casual pre-wedding gathering together before the October 30th wedding and asked for recommendations on what type of activity I may be interested in, I was stumped.

Many co-workers, see each other at the office more than our spouses, but amidst the hustle and bustle of the work day, rarely have the chance to think about take a load off and having some fun together.

I haven’t taken much time for “me” lately, so all that I could come up with for a “fun pre-wedding activity” besides group ”nap time” was something food related.

One of our attorneys, Ame, came up with a fabulous idea, ”How about lunch at the NC State Fair?,” she recommended.

Brilliant.

And just that we did. We shut it down early last Friday and went to the fair for a few hours of enjoying good, healthy fair eats, some rides, pig races and the petting zoo.

The day was especially nice because I was lucky enough to be surrounded both at work and outside of the office by such fun loving and caring folks.

Our managing partner, took some pictures and posted them on our facebook fan page.

Take a look at all the photos from our fun pre-wedding celebration at the fair. I will be adding mine soon too.

Bashyam Spiro Staff Visit NC State Fair

Diversity Visa Lottery Registration Through Nov. 2010

October 21st, 2010
posted by at 3:46 pm

-          By Murali Bashyam, Esq.

During a recent event for the non-profit Friends Unite, Africa Economic Foundation founder, Dr. Philip Mwalali, told us about the small village in Africa called Kilisa with very little resources where he grew up. He told us how he worked very hard and became prominent doctor in Kenya.  He was motivated to become a doctor because he wanted to give back to his village and help them improve their quality of life.

Dr. Mwalali now lives in the United States. He and his family were chosen for U.S. residency through what is called the Diversity Immigration Visa Lottery program.  Today, he, along with many others in the U.S. and in Kenya, continue to help the villagers and children in Kilisa have a better life.

This is a real-life example of how this program can really make a difference in the lives of a wide spectrum of people.  It is also an example that the program is available to a diverse group of intending immigrants.

The Diversity Immigrant Visa (DV) program is a U.S. Congressionally-mandated lottery program for receiving U.S. Permanent Resident Status (green card).  It is administered on an annual basis, and makes available 50,000 permanent residency visas to persons from countries with low rates of immigration to the United States.  Currently, Africa and Europe receive about 80% of the visas in the lottery.

In recent years, the DV program has come under fire from anti-immigrant groups.  Their main argument is that the program provides U.S. permanent resident status to unskilled or low skilled people, and those people do not benefit the United States.  They also say that it is easy for terrorists to apply under the program and obtain a U.S. green card.  Of course, like all other residency cases, DV winners must go through an extensive FBI background check before getting U.S. resident status.

Dr. Mwalali was an educated doctor before he even entered the U.S. as a permanent resident.  As with any immigration program, there will be flaws.  But we should recognize the good that these programs do instead of constantly focusing on those flaws.

As John Wilcock, a visa specialist with the State Department, said during a recent Washington Foreign Press Center media briefing, as he explained the 1990 law that created a new class of diversity immigrants, “The idea was to diversify the immigrant pool.”

The entry period to apply for the DV-2012 program is from October 5, 2010 to November 3, 2010. We’ve included all of the registration details on our Immigration News Blog.

You Can Never Outgrow Your Need For Purpose

August 13th, 2010
posted by at 4:47 pm

As you get older, it sometimes seems that there are fewer things to learn. No more school. You know your job like the back of your hand. You play the same games on the computer.

Well, I recently had an opportunity that taught me much about life outside the United States. And it opened my eyes to the reality that there is SO much I still don’t know.

Murali and I recently returned from a trip to Kenya. Besides the safari – which was absolutely fantastic – we spent some time visiting with people involved in projects we’ve partnered with as part of the non-profit that we built, Friends Unite.

We went to Kibera, outside Nairobi, which is one of the largest slums in the world. There we met with officials from Carolina for Kibera. This UNC Global initiative, is a non-profit organization that has set an exemplary model for how just a few people can create astounding change for those in need.

They showed us some of their youth programs, and then took us to the medical center they started. It has since been taken over somewhat by a larger non-profit, but that is exactly what we’d like to do – start programs that are so successful they become self-sustaining. The building itself is a clean, sturdy, shining beacon in the midst of overwhelming poverty. The people, dedicated professionals with optimism beyond compare.

We also drove out to Kilisa, a small village a few hours east of Nairobi (in the US, it wouldn’t have taken a few hours, but we’ll talk about Kenyan highways some other time!) to meet with the Kilisa Village Development Community (“KVDC”). What they’ve accomplished already, and what they’ve planned for the future, is remarkable. With so few resources, they’ve managed to redirect their path from one of stagnant poverty which would be expected in an area like this. Instead, they are now on one with the potential for education, enterprise, and sustainable growth.

So what did I learn? Sometimes community-based change does not have to take a government, or years of political negotiating. Water can be found and harnessed from underneath a dry riverbed. A school full of children with a desire to learn does not need a playground, projectors, or even many books. And…. we are very lucky to live in a country with natural resources that allow us to concentrate on more than just survival.

Check out the video of our trip to a school in Kilisa, that our colleague Jessica Coscia produced.

Asante sana!

The Ever-Present Immigration “Friend”

May 12th, 2010
posted by at 6:51 pm

 I’ve been in the immigration racket (I mean industry) for over ten years now. I’ve met so many interesting people from all over the world – professionals, refugees, tradesmen, senior citizens, college students, toddlers, Asians, Europeans, South Americans.

Do you want to know who I HAVEN’T met?  This “friend” so many of my clients talk about.

I wish I could meet him or her. I’d like to explain how difficult they’ve made my job! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard, “Three YEARS?? My ‘friend’ said he got his Green Card in six months”!

I try to explain that maybe this “friend” was in a higher employment preference category, or the State Department’s visa numbers were current at that time. Or maybe they immigrated through family instead of employment – that makes a huge difference. They say the devil is in the details, and when it comes to immigration law it is!

What else have we heard from these invisible friends? They “didn’t have to pay that fee” or “didn’t have to file that form” or “said it’s legal to work on H4” or “don’t think the employer has to advertise for the job”.

I often wonder where their friend got this information. Perhaps this is all a plot by USCIS to torture the staff of immigration law firms. Think about it – approve a case in 10 days that should normally take 10 years. That information spreads like wild-fire in our Internet age and bingo! It eventually gets around to our client who then informs us that 10 day processing is the norm.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but think about it…………… I am all for friends and friendship but when it comes to your immigration case, your best friends are the folks you work with in the immigration law firm that you hired. Trust them.

In The Eye of the Hurricane

March 30th, 2010
posted by at 4:21 pm

What a picture, right?

My wife says everyone looks a bit too serious, but we weren’t really. My buddy Joaquin and I were just victims of bad camera timing.  We’re both huge hockey fans, so we were smiling on the inside, trust me!

It was though the Tammy Lynn Center for Developmental Disabilities (TLC) Toast to the Triangle event that we were able to visit with the Canes in the first place. I bid on a Canes’ auction item at the Toast event last year and won. The Canes locker room visit was a part of the deal.  It was definitely worth it! 

For those of you who haven’t heard about the Tammy Lynn Center, I urge you to visit their web site or Facebook page to learn more.  TLC does a wonderful job helping adults and children with developmental disabilities.  And as member of the TLC Board of Directors, I took this flag into the Hurricanes locker room with the hope that a few players would take a picture with us. 

Eric Cole and Zack Boychuck were nice enough to participate in the promotional picture you see here.  We also met Eric Staal and Rod Brind’amour. Even though I rooted for Team USA at the Olympics, I told Staal congratulations on winning the Gold Medal for Canada.   After all, I wanted to having been born in Canada myself!    

We also met Coach Paul Maurice, and it wasn’t just a quick ‘hello.’  We sat in his office for what seemed to be an eternity while he talked to us about hockey strategy, player personalities, and answered our questions.      Coach gained our respect for spending time with us when he clearly didn’t have to.   It was exciting to get insight on the game directly from Coach Maurice.

As I write this blog piece, I can’t help but notice something about this picture.   It’s probably the Immigration lawyer in me, but when I look at this picture I see a Canadian, an American, a Canadian/Indian/American, and a Cuban American.  That’s us, from left to right.  This picture represents America, the melting pot.  It’s a snap-shot of immigrants living in and helping this great country.

Some of the guys in the locker room mentioned that they had just become U.S. citizens, and one other asked me if he qualified for it.  I guess brand America is still in demand.   

So how does hockey fit into the immigration system?  Many of these hockey players are from other countries such as Russia, Canada, Slovakia, Finland and Poland.  For the Canes’ or any other hockey team to get a foreign player to the U.S., they will likely have to apply for an immigrant or nonimmigrant visa.   In fact, there are special visa categories available to professional athletes from other countries.    Preparing the right strategy and applying for the appropriate visa is crucial to getting foreign athletes to the U.S. quickly.

Special thanks to our friends at TLC, Tripp Tracy, Coach Paul Maurice, the Hurricanes players, Maria Hernandez and everyone who allowed us to take a look inside the “Eye of the Hurricane.”  We will always remember this experience.

Go Canes!

Sound Accounting, Serene Life

March 26th, 2010
posted by at 5:38 pm

Post by: Lydia Salett, Accountant, Bashyam Spiro LLP

I’m fairly new to the immigration law environment but as an Accountant, handling money for a business can be stressful regardless of where you work or how the economy is doing. 

So, how do I balance all the stresses of life and work? 

I play music…

For the past couple of years I’ve been studying jazz piano at a local university and let me tell you this subject matter requires quite a bit of discipline.  But, when it’s time to perform, it’s all worth the effort.  To me, performing means providing an atmosphere of escape and serenity for others, and for myself.

When it comes to performing, there have been times when I’ve been stressed, hoping that it would not be a disaster due to my feelings of inadequacy or lack of preparation.  But, even in those situations things just have a way of working themselves out.  Jazz is the type of music that, in my opinion will always be around.  So even if I’m still able to perform at 80 years of age, it will be a genre of music that most people enjoy.

There’s nothing like inviting co-workers, during a weekday, to a restaurant where I’m performing and hearing my colleagues conversing and laughing louder than any other person in the establishment (now that’s priceless). It just lets me know that they are all de-stressing after a long and hard day at work. 

Last year, I found out Murali Bashyam, the firm’s Managing Partner, played the guitar.  I brought a CD to work and asked him if he would consider playing on a gig with me.  I only wanted him to do one song.  I mean, he once released a CD with his band, so playing guitar with me should not be so hard, right?  Well, he basically chickened out by telling me he had a lot of work to do and would not have time to practice. 

I then shifted my focus to Pam Prather, our Client Relations Manager, who’s always singing or humming a tune around the office.  Pam used to be a singer in a rock band back in the day, and is naturally gifted in the vocals department.  I am picturing her under the lights, singing jazz standards while I accompany her on the piano. 

So along with performing my daily accounting duties, I’m secretly working on a plan to get her behind a microphone. It’s one of those things that you just have to wait to see how it plays out.