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Sarah

5 Items to Unpack Before you Take Your Dream Holiday

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Did you recently enjoy the Easter / Anzac Day / School’s-out combination of holidays? Do you feel refreshed after a couple of weeks ‘on leave’?
I’m joking, right?
Yes, just kiddin’ ya! You had to check your emails morning and night, clients were calling you not realizing it was a Public Holiday or you were still had to work on an urgent RFI.
What if I told you there is a way to have a real holiday break, keep your computer turned OFF and return to work refreshed and with your business intact? Imagine how relaxed you would feel…
Well let me share the 5 ‘Must-Do’s when it comes to taking your dream holiday.

1. Plan Plan Plan

Just like you plan your holiday, working out where you will stay, what you will see and do, working out your budget, so you also need to plan your absence from work.
This will require you to be organized, and have systems in place to allow you to quickly analyse your current and projected workload, deadlines and expiries. Whether you use a bespoke system such as Migration Manager, Officio or other specialist migration software, or you just use a spreadsheet to keep track of your client files, ensure that you have a system that captures factors such as visa expiry, English language test expiry, age and other deadlines and proposed lodgement date. Ensure that you have a status field that you keep up to date so that you can see whether you are on track to meet your deadlines.
Regardless of you taking a holiday, this system is basic to the administration of your migration practice but comes into its own when you want to take a break.
With all data recorded for each file, filter your data and see whether any deadlines fall within the period covering one week before your holiday to one week after your return. Highlight these files for action. Determine what actions you must take and what actions you require your client to take and mark it out on a planner (I find handwritten best).

2. Communicate

You work like a superhero but you are in fact human, and it does not hurt your clients to realise that!
When you communicate proactively with your clients about taking time off for a holiday, they will (ok sometimes grudgingly) respect your space and leave you in peace. Communicating early will mean that you can allay your clients’ concerns well in advance and let them know the plan of action in relation to their file.
Create an email responder that warns the sender of your intended absence. Do this one month out from your holiday. Invite clients to contact you should they have any concerns so that you can deal with their questions early.
On your last day at work, update your email responder to indicate whom the sender should contact in your absence, providing full contact details.

3. Act Early

Avoid the last-minute rush to lodge applications before you go on leave. Small fires are sure to pop up that will demand your last-minute attention. So, deal with what you know is on hand as early as you can.
Remind clients to provide you with the documents or information that you need to prepare their application for lodgement prior to you going on leave or after your return.
As per your plan (step 1), determine which files you can start and finish before you go, which you can do your part and leave the rest to the client (eg giving them a checklist, sending them to do LMT) and which you will start on your return.

4. Delegate

Sharing the load, before you go as well as while you are away, will give both you and your clients peace of mind, knowing that the work will be done and there is someone managing it and is available should an urgent matter arise.
If you have staff, consider their capacity and delegate work to them based on your plan in Step 1. And remember to delegate early to them too so that they have time to ask you any questions before you go.
If you don’t have staff consider asking a colleague or a locum to manage your files in your absence. Consider whether you need someone to prepare applications, manage phone calls (can these be diverted to a service?) and emails (forward them to …?), or just be a point of contact. Will you share your immi account log in (consider using a password sharing service such as Lastpass) so that they can check the correspondence and outcomes? Will you forward emails to them?
You may feel uncomfortable leaving your files with another agent however, if your database / spreadsheet is in order then you should easily be able to highlight those files that may require attention and on which the agent may be able to respond directly. They can always contact you on the phone as required – perhaps set up a designated time every couple of days to have a catch up. In that way you still have your finger on the pulse but don’t need to worry about the nitty gritty of the day to day.

5. Wind Down

We all know that a high percentage of us get sick as soon as we go on holiday. The build up of stress prior to taking a break suddenly implodes and our immune system can’t cope.
In the week before your holiday, start winding down. By now you should have managed the bulk of all your work and put out any major fires. You should be spending your time tying up loose ends, working on smaller action items and delegating to your team or locum.
Consider taking some vitamin or mineral supplements at this time. Especially if travelling overseas, speak to your health professional or compounding pharmacist about what supplements will support your immune system.
Get yourself in the peak of health so that you can enjoy your holiday to the max!
If you are willing to plan your holiday absence from work, I am sure you will reap the rewards from these 5 steps. Try them before your next holiday and let me know how you get on!

 

The ART and SCIENCE of PERSUASION

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The Advanced Evidence and Advocacy Practicum organised by Legalwise which I attended on 2 March, did, I was pleased to discover, turn out to have content that I could re-shape from the litigation context and consider within our migration context.

Many elements addressed by the speakers (I heard: Sydney Jacobs, 13 Wentworth Selbourne; John-Paul Redmond, 53 Martin Place; Zoe Hillman, 8 Selbourne) replicate elements we use when submitting applications, responding to RFIs and on appeal. We use these elements to create persuasive and supported arguments to achieve the positive outcome our client desires.

The art of persuasion can only exist, however, when we can first persuade ourselves. If you believe in the justice of your client’s situation and believe that your client’s application falls within the rules, then you are more likely to be able to persuade the decision-maker to your point of view.

Once convinced yourself, you then need to build a strong case theory. ‘What is case theory?’ I hear you ask. It is the logical, persuasive story of what happened. Laying strong foundations from the beginning using your case theory, provides a structure within which you can develop your arguments and prepare your evidence, respond to an RFI, or later lodge an appeal.

When developing your case theory ask yourself these questions:
– What is the legislative criterion?
– What is in dispute?
– What is the evidence?
– How does the evidence match the criterion?

From there you can structure your argument:
– Identify the issue in contention
– Take a position (there could be one or more options here)
– Put forward your position supported by relevant evidence
– Identify the opposing view (eg Departmental policy, or contentions raised in an RFI)
– Propose an argument to counter that opposing view.

Clearly, then, your argument must be based upon evidence. Let’s review some key rules about evidence:
– Evidence should be relevant to the issues in contention
– Evidence should be accurate
– Documentary evidence should speak for itself ( your role is to explain how it fits your case theory)
– Witness statements should be relevant, non-argumentative, accurate and based on what they have witnessed with their sense

When using experts to support your client’s case (for example to show psychological distress, relating to medical issues, addressing financial matters), consider the following:

– Qualify your expert. What is their precise discipline and is it relevant to your client’s defined issue? What training or study have
they in this area? How much experience does he or she have of similar situations?
– Does your client’s case rest solely on this one expert’s evidence? It shouldn’t. Rather, the expert’s evidence should be supported
by other pieces of evidence.
– Is the expert’s opinion relevant to the issue?
– Is the expert’s report persuasive, logical and understandable? Consider it from an outsider’s point of view – use the ‘would my
grandmother understand this’ test!

Recommend your expert provides his / her report with a clear structure such as:

Bio
Outline of the question being addressed in the report
Assumptions on which the report is based
Opinion

Slotting your evidence into your case theory, you will lead the decision maker step by step to the inevitable conclusion you wish them to draw. Using a structured approach is a practical tool to help you move from the quagmire of a position under attack to an unassailable argument in your client’s favour.