Q & A with Eric Ledbetter

Eric Ledbetter, an associate at Quarles & Brady, specializes in business immigration issues and helps individuals and corporations obtain lawful employment-based visas and green cards.  Eric advises multinational corporations regarding the immigration consequences of reorganizations, international expansions, mergers, acquisitions and corporate re-sizing.  He also works with companies on compliance issues such as I-9 audits, E-Verify training and implementation, and avoidance of immigration-related discrimination.

What do you find the most interesting about your practice?

The U.S. immigration code has grown over the course of the last two centuries into a complex system of federal laws and regulations administered via a patchwork of federal and state agencies.  The basic questions of who gains entry into the United States, on what basis, with what procedural rights, and upon what evidence are as alive and controversial today as they were 100 or even 200 years ago.  To practice in this area is to grapple daily with a constantly shifting body of law and procedure.  But it is also to serve people who are often among the most vulnerable, the most in need of good representation, the most aware of the American dream, and the most committed to realizing it.  Immigration cases are nearly always deeply meaningful to the client, which in turn fuels a strong personal connection and interest in my work.

What makes a good lawyer?

Good communication.  Of course one must be intelligent and dedicated and competent in his or her field, but more than that a good lawyer needs to be able to listen well and communicate ideas into words.  To me, the most challenging part of good communication is learning to really listen to what another person says, and beyond that, to hear what they mean to say.  I try to spend the first part of any conversation learning what the client wants – What are they asking for? – What are they not asking for? – What do they value? – What are their priorities? After that, I try to demonstrate that I have listened by repeating back the goal along with the specific steps that we might take to get there.

What is the biggest legal news right now, and what is its impact?

In my practice area the biggest news is the unprecedented growth in global workforce mobility. As companies stretch around the globe and expand into markets that were unimaginable just 5 to 10 years ago, they are increasingly seeking ways to transfer management and skilled workers to and from their American facilities.  Within the United States, companies are increasingly interested in obtaining legal visas and green cards for their foreign national workers while simultaneously responding to new government enforcement measures to stop unauthorized employment.  Related to this is the rise of the federal E-Verify program, which for the first time in our nation’s history creates an electronic list of the names and social security numbers of people who are authorized to work in this country.  As global mobility continues to increase and as E-Verify becomes a permanent part of the employment landscape, I believe we will all need to contend with how to create a 21-century immigration system that serves our national interests while also respecting the rights of U.S. citizens as well as permanent and temporary residents.

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