Abhisha Parikh: “EMOTIONAL BALANCE”


Staying emotionally balanced as an immigration attorney is not always easy, but it is necessary to do the best work you can. Air travelers are instructed by the flight attendant to put their own oxygen masks on before helping others. The reason? If you pass out, you won’t be able to help anyone else. The same is true for maintaining a balanced emotional state. If I fall apart emotionally due to life or job stress, I will no longer be able to help my clients. That is unacceptable to me. As such, I work very hard to look within myself on a regular basis so that I can be the best immigration attorney I can be.


The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.

As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Abhisha Parikh.

Abhisha Parikh is a first generation immigrant with her own solo practice in New Jersey. She attended Monmouth University, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in Finance, and obtained her Juris Doctorate from George Mason University-Antonin Scalia School of Law. In 2014, Abhisha opened her own immigration law firm, focusing on family-based and employment-based immigration matters.


Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?

As a first-generation immigrant, I witnessed firsthand my dad go through the processes of obtaining his student visa, H1B, and green card, eventually becoming a U.S. citizen. As a child, I had a bird’s eye view of all the hurdles immigrants need to jump through to become a permanent U.S. resident.

My parents sacrificed everything from their old lives in order to give their kids a better life in the United States. Because of that, I always felt pressured to excel in school and choose a career where I could thrive. I owed my parents that. I chose to study law since I always wanted to do something in my life that would help others. Armed with my finance degree, my plan was to go into corporate law, which is a highly competitive field, but then, lo and behold, the Universe dropped an immigration externship in my lap which completely changed my trajectory. From that experience, I knew immediately that immigration law was what I was meant to do.

Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?

My practice is solely focused on immigration. My firm has a client-oriented approach that devotes time to understanding the peculiarities of each case in a holistic way. From there, we can offer tailor-made solutions to solve the issue of each person who comes through our door for help, whether for green card processing, employment visas, investor visas, student visas, or citizenship. We also take on a small number of asylum cases per year. We spend a lot of time on green card filings based on family petitions or employment petitions.

You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?

1. I am able to treat people like human beings. From personal experience, I know that often immigrants are treated like a mere number in the system. They automatically expect poor treatment, since many times Immigration Enforcement Agents or other attorneys have treated them that way in the past. I take pride in making sure I understand every one of my client’s unique needs and in the fact that I refuse to offer standardized solutions. One of the best parts of my job is listening to a grateful client explain how good it felt to have us give their situation time and attention and help them achieve a positive outcome.

When thinking about people who are treated like a number, I think of a client that came to. We can call him Jose to keep his identity concealed. Jose fled to the U.S. with his young daughter after his wife was killed in a bombing attack in El Salvador. Since he lacked immigration status, Jose didn’t know where to turn for help when he found himself suffering from depression and PTSD and was unable to go to his job as a day laborer. He had very little English and so was extremely anxious when his child’s daycare tried to communicate with him about his daughter, who seemed frequently ill and hungry. When he was referred to Child Protective Services, Jose was automatically dehumanized and judged to be a bad father, which was far from the truth.

2. I am constantly eager to learn. Even as a seasoned attorney, the only thing I know for sure is that I do not know everything. Immigration is a constantly evolving field, and gray areas can be used to our client’s advantage. I spend a lot of time learning as much case law as I can, as well as talking to my peers about how they overcame certain challenges in their own practices. All of this helps me to better represent my clients and offer successful solutions.

When the coronavirus situation first happened, green card holders asked me what they should do since they suddenly became stuck outside of the U.S. During this time, I had to do some research to figure out how we can get these folks back into the US, since of course this was a very unusual situation — one that had never happened before. With law, as with life, new situations will come up every day. This is why it is so important to keep learning at every opportunity.

3. I never say no to myself. One of the best pieces of advice I ever received was, “Don’t say ‘no’ to yourself; let someone else say ‘no’ to you.” This profound statement led me to aim for goals and take risks outside of my comfort zone. Whenever I find myself slamming the brakes on my dreams, I tell myself that, if it’s not meant to be, then let someone else tell me no. But I will no longer say no to myself.

After graduation, I decided to open my own firm. Many people laughed at me, pointing out that I was young, I was inexperienced, and I was female. But I forged on, taking the risk of opening my own practice. In following my dream and refusing to hear the word ‘no,’ I found success. Today, I’m doing what I love to do, helping other people, and living my best possible life.

Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?

I guess I have been lucky in my life and career, but moreover I simply believe that everything that is meant to be mine will come to me. I believe in the Universe. And I believe that everything that has happened to me in my career — both good and bad — was supposed to happen. The good things have been stepping stones to success. The bad things have helped me grow and prepare for the next stage of challenges. I am grateful for all of it. I believe success comes from a mixture of luck, faith, and determination.

Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?

Actually, I don’t. Looking back, I would have probably chosen a well-ranking university closer to home rather than a top-tier university, since my choice didn’t have an impact on what I wanted to do later in my career. I graduated from Antonin Scalia School of Law, but I didn’t know that I would be opening my own immigration firm after graduation and moving back to the NJ/NY area. I regret not giving more thought to my purpose and what type of law really drives me before deciding on what schools to attend. My advice to current law students would be to skip the obsession with top-tier schools and simply focus on what they really want to do after law school.

Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?

Don’t be afraid of your ideas. Don’t worry about failing. Your ideas and your thoughts are worth something. Put them out there, get feedback, and grow one step at a time. I spent way too much time in my twenties in my comfort zone. I was so afraid of failing, and I worried what other people might think. If I could go back in time, I would definitely have taken more risks, because only by making yourself uncomfortable can you create magic.

This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?

I know my purpose is a lot bigger and will go far beyond the work I’m doing today. I want to be a catalyst for change. I want to have a positive impact on the lives of others.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I have been enjoying helping clients obtain investor visas, which allow foreigners who invest in the U.S. to obtain a green card. This kind of work is really allowing me to apply my business degree, since we get involved with clients on every detail of the project, advising them on everything from the formation of their business to the immigration processing phase of the case.

Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?

The only way to go is up. I want to expand the firm but still keep our client-oriented approach. Eventually, I want to globalize my firm, so that we can help more people not only in the U.S. but also internationally. So many folks have all the right skill sets or funds to come to the U.S. on a visa, but they just don’t have the proper guidance. I want to make my services easily accessible to prospective clients internationally.

Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?

A lot of our war stories deal with asylum or victims of crime clients. These cases can be obviously emotionally draining and paperwork-intensive. One particular case really hurts my heart. My client was a young immigrant woman who was sexually and mentally abused by her husband, who was a U.S. citizen. Eventually, we resolved the case, obtaining her immigrant visa (green card) under the Violence against Women Act, which grants the abused spouse permanent residency independent of the abuser relative.

There are a ton of funny stories to share but unfortunately, I don’t think any of them are appropriate to share on this platform.

Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?

At the moment, our office is mostly hybrid. COVID has really normalized meeting people over Zoom, so that is how I do a majority of my consultations. That said, I do go to the office on certain days, especially when we have a lot of filings going out. I definitely see my firm going into the direction of becoming more and more hybrid. In fact, many of my peers have already gone completely remote and now run virtual firms. Since computers and printers aren’t easily accessible for many of our clients, however, I don’t think my firm will ever go fully virtual. Accessibility is our top priority.

How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?

The COVID-19 pandemic has tested and informed the legal landscape. Arguably, it is even now changing the way we do business. It has raised questions about how to best meet the needs of vulnerable populations and has underscored how different regulations can both help and hinder people and businesses.

As it relates to immigration law, COVID has slowed immigration processing for those outside the U.S. almost to a standstill. Processing times at the United States and Immigration Services are at an all-time high, and most embassies are still only issuing emergency appointments for visa applicants. Sadly, we have clients who have now been separated from their spouses for over two years.

COVID has exposed the cracks in the outdated and inefficient immigration system and has shown how badly it needs to be revamped. One positive outcome of the pandemic has been that many attorneys now try to complete their paperwork electronically in order to expedite processing times.

We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?

Networking will always be an important part of marketing a law firm. My practice thrives on referrals and the amazing reviews I have online. I have built a presence over multiple online platforms, even though most clients are still most comfortable trusting referrals that come from someone they know. The idea that you can only network at attorney conferences and happy hours is an antiquated notion, since I meet many clients through non-law related events. I believe that you should enter every social event with the mindset that you might meet someone here who could propel you into the next stage of your life or career.

Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?

With so many social media platforms and so much content to consume, an average person doesn’t spend more than seven seconds on a photo or video and can easily become overwhelmed. That’s why I believe attorneys should always strive to provide value to their online audience. Providing content to the consumer not only draws them in, but also establishes your credibility. When lawyers have a presence on platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube, potential customers become familiar with them and their expertise.

Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.

1. COMPASSION

Compassion is at the heart of lawyering. It’s difficult for a client to build a relationship with an attorney who keeps their feelings at bay. While there is a place to draw a line, being able to relate to and empathize with a client will show them that you can be trusted and that you have their best interests in mind. Relationships are built on trust and compassion. When you are able to see all sides and understand the points of view of all parties, you will be able to focus more on how to get your client the best results. While many rules in law are black and white, the details of a case are very often quite gray. Being compassionate is a tool that you can use to see the larger picture, which only enhances your strategy in and out of the courtroom.

One caution: compassion is so important to creating that bond with your client. However, you must make sure that you don’t let the gritty details of a client’s case affect you too negatively. Many immigration attorneys suffer from secondary post-traumatic stress disorder, since they need to listen to the sometimes horrific stories of clients who have come through so much. One of my clients, for instance, came from a war-torn country. Her story of trauma and torture caused me many sleepless nights, as I suffered from compassion fatigue. As an attorney who daily absorbs some of the most callous aspects of humanity, I use mindfulness to try to stay balanced between compassion and my own well-being.

2. STAYING UP TO DATE ON TECHNOLOGY

Anyone looking to gain a competitive advantage needs to leverage the technology solutions available on the market today. The legal world is shifting more and more to virtual law firms and attorney marketing on social media platforms. By staying tech savvy, you allow for new, innovative ways to make your work and communication with your client more efficient.

In my firm, we have moved down the learning curve of using video calls with clients, some of whom did not feel comfortable communicating using a computer. The pandemic has caused every business to rethink the way it communicates with its customers and clients, and law offices are no exception.

In terms of marketing, I now use Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and LinkedIn as platforms for sharing quality information with people. I do this mostly because I want to help people who are in need of answers. If these folks also come to me as future clients, that is all well and good too. Social media also has the power to connect professionals with new partnerships and innovative ideas.

3. CREATIVITY

Knowing the law is obviously essential but applying it in a way that truly solves people’s problems relies on creative thinking. No case is ever exactly the same and this allows you to come up with solutions that are tailor-made to your client’s needs.

I dealt once with a child (let’s call him Frederick), who came to the U.S. as an unaccompanied minor. He was supposed to be placed with a sponsor relative, but that situation fell through, and the boy became homeless. This is an example of when immigration law intersects with child welfare. I was forced to think on my feet to come up with a solution. Should child welfare become involved or was this a federal matter? What were Frederick’s foster care placement options, and would that be the best scenario for him? How best could we achieve a permanency plan for this boy? And does he qualify for any immigration relief? Since the original game plan for Frederick — being placed with a sponsor — disappeared, I was now faced with the task of thinking outside of the box to come up with a creative solution.

4. EMOTIONAL BALANCE

Staying emotionally balanced as an immigration attorney is not always easy, but it is necessary to do the best work you can. Air travelers are instructed by the flight attendant to put their own oxygen masks on before helping others. The reason? If you pass out, you won’t be able to help anyone else. The same is true for maintaining a balanced emotional state. If I fall apart emotionally due to life or job stress, I will no longer be able to help my clients. That is unacceptable to me. As such, I work very hard to look within myself on a regular basis so that I can be the best immigration attorney I can be.

Self-awareness helps me more fully understand my motivations, traits, behaviors, and feelings. I believe that when I see myself more clearly, I am more creative and more confident. Of course, this carries over into my work. I’m able to listen to my clients more intently, make better decisions, and communicate more effectively.

One of my past clients, who did not have residency status, needed help getting reunited with her child, who was a U.S. citizen. When she was detained after her workplace was raided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement authorities, she was overwhelmed with grief and didn’t know what to do. If she contacted me and I was a personal mess myself, I would not have been able to deal with her case in a collected, logical manner. Therefore, I believe that it is imperative for me to stay as balanced as I can in my own life so that I can help my clients more effectively.

5. CONFIDENCE

In order for clients to have confidence in your work, you need to have confidence in yourself. It’s vital that you truly feel it. To help clients see your confidence, explain your vision. Tell them what you know and what you’re learning. Informing them of your strategy will reassure them that you understand what is happening and what needs to be done. It’s especially effective if your strategy is developed using personal and analytical insights.

When I work with a client, I take the time to truly listen to everything they have to say. Once I understand, I come up with a clear plan that I share with my client in a positive and conclusive way. Moving forward with a firm hand but a soft touch is key to making my clients feel protected and safe, something many of them have not felt in a very long time. One man who came to me looking to file for asylum, for instance, had seen some very rough times during the past few years. His wife and children had been gunned down by militants, and he was left alone, wishing himself dead as well. He persevered, however, and got himself out. When I first met him, he was agitated. He did not trust me. Only by taking a tone of certain, quiet confidence, speaking softly but with concern and determination, can an attorney allow a client like this to build faith in them.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world or in the U.S. with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂

I would love to meet with Robin Sharma. Not only is he a successful attorney, but he’s the world’s top leadership expert. After reading his book The 5 a.m. Club, I realized the critical importance of a solid morning routine. This discipline in my personal life tipped over into my work as well, making me a better attorney.

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!


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