It’s 2021. Obviously I need to post some updates.

Where to start?

Welcome Elise Mercier, our newest lawyer! In October, the intrepid Elise packed up her belongings and moved here from Ontario to join North Star. And from her first week in the office, she has been a huge help with our volume of work which has exponentially increased recently (more about that in a sec) and also levelled us up in the home-baked goods department. The first thing we had her do was figure out the new extended family reunification process and start preparing those applications. I am happy to report that she is now our resident expert in that area.

We welcomed Elise with a little office party in early November, complete with an oyster bar, because, Nova Scotia. And thank goodness we did as everything else got cancelled once NS’s second wave hit in late November. No North Star holiday party this year.

Our little office bubble carries on and as a general rule, we don’t see clients in person. We don’t share Covered Bridge chips anymore (we each have to have our own bag now) but otherwise the office is managing ok. We rented a large space across the hall, which we previously used clandestinely for after-hours band practice. It is now a multipurpose room, great for physically-distant client meetings, virtual refugee hearings, end of day chats and beverages and rainy day bike rides:

On the immigration front, things are still a whirlwind. So far in 2021, we have received some fantastic approvals:

– a PGWP restoration in 15 days and a couple H&C first stage approvals (nice work Sophie and Lori!),
– a bench positive refugee determination (nice work Guilhem!),
– a 2-week expedited nomination (nice work Elise!)
– a tricky PR Card renewal we submitted in September and received in the mail last week (nice work Lara!)
– a BOWP approval for someone on threadbare implied status – proof that there is such a thing as an “implied status sandwich” (hats-off Cam!)

But in case anyone tells you otherwise, immigration practice during a pandemic is not all sunshine and roses: we received a few really awful decisions mid-summer, like on a few H&Cs we thought were solid. So that has meant extra work – filing federal court applications and managing disappointed clients. And trying to explain to those disappointed clients that judicial review is the only option and “it’s like an appeal but it’s not an appeal. No, you cannot talk to the judge. No you cannot give new evidence. Even though it’s your case, if you want to come to the hearing, you have to sit in the back gallery.” And realizing how completely convoluted the legal process is when you try to explain it. Ultimately, DOJ/IRCC has consented on most of them so they are back in process. But some are not, and some people we fought hard for are out of options. Losing when the chips are down is brutal.*

#legaltech wtf
It never ceases to amaze me that in law practice we are still so constrained by software limitations. To practice Canadian immigration law, you basically have to subscribe to Acrobat Cloud, which is costly and glitchy, at least on MacOS. For years, I have been searching for something to streamline our practice in a way that will integrate our systems and not cause more work/headaches for the lawyers. But it turns out starting a practice and transitioning a practice are two different things, and as imperfect as our systems are, they are stable, secure and simple. I realize implementing software that uses checklists or workflows is good as long as they truly integrate and automate and aren’t just there for display. For 2021, we have plans to implement some new tools to streamline our work and make it easier for clients to get their information to us, using secure links for online forms rather than scanned pdfs. Baby steps, I guess.

So 2020 was the longest year and the most distracting year and the most fucked up year really, but we made it through and are ready for whatever 2021 has in store for us. And if it’s just more of the same, well at least we know how to pandemic now.

*As I write this, I can hear my husband calling my daughter for breakfast – “Louisa, come and eat. I made you breakfast. It’s an omelet. It’s the worst omelet I’ve ever made. It doesn’t even look like an omelet. I need to learn how to make better omelets.” And basically, that sums up what’s going on around here. (xo CF)