THE

Managing
Partners
podcast

Episode # 162
Interview on 02.01.2022

Hosted By
Kevin Daisey

Featuring Attorney

Christine Poarch



Managing Partner of
Poarch Thompson Law

About Christine Poarch

Christine Poarch is the Managing Partner at Poarch Thompson Law in Salem, Virginia.

Christine serves on the Board of Governors of the Federal Bar Association’s Immigration Law Section and has worked extensively on the section’s legislative proposal for immigration court reform. Licensed in Texas (1999) and Virginia (2001) she is also licensed before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Fourth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals, the Southern District of Texas, and the Eastern and Western District Courts of Virginia. In 2014, she was named a Virginia Law Foundation Fellow, and in 2019 she became a Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys.

Learn from her expertise and what trends are helping grow her firm on this episode of The Managing Partners Podcast!

Watch the Episode

Episode Transcript

Kevin:
All right, hell. Hey everyone. This is Kevin and we are live with another recording of the Managing Partners Podcast. I’ll be your host. I’m also the founder of Array Digital, where we help law firms with their digital marketing and help grow their case pipeline. Today. I have a special guest out of Virginia, so not too far from us here at the Array Digital studios, Christine Poarch. Welcome to the show.

Christine Poarch:
Thank You. Thanks for having me.

Kevin:
Yeah, so you’re not too far away. You’re in Salem, Virginia running your practice there. So we got to chat a little bit backstage and I got to learn more about you and your firm and things like that and what you guys are up to, but I’m just really excited to hear that from you. Hear your story, your journey, what triggered you to become an attorney, tell us a little bit more about what that journey was like.

Christine Poarch:
Sure. Well I think that it starts with I’m a Southwestern Virginia girl, which is ultimately what’s informed our practice as well, because we are in a really odd niche. As you know, Southwestern Virginia is a fairly rural part of the state. It is sort of anchored by Roanoke, which is a larger city at one end. But west of here you have Virginia Tech, you have a number of other metropolitan areas, but it’s not the most populated part of the state.

Christine Poarch:
So when I left in 1990, because I grew up here, I went to Texas for about 13 years. And when I moved home, the demographics of this area had just changed dramatically. And I had already been working with the Latino community, I had lived in Ecuador. I had been working with battered women in Houston when I went to law school there. And so basically when I came back to Virginia, I was intended to actually start a network of clinics through Justice for Our Neighbors, which was a Methodist ministry that served immigrant with legal needs. And in fact the church funding for that never came through. And so I hung my own shingle.

Christine Poarch:
And so in 2003, I started my practice. I think it was September 2003. So we are just past our anniversary, started with one attorney, with just me and with one paralegal who is still with me to this day, who has the poor judgment to stay for over 15 years. But we are now six attorneys at about 15 to 16 other staff. And we do exclusively, we practice exclusively in the area of immigration law and we do adoption, which is a weird sidebar, but we do it because we were involved in international adoption for so many years. So I’m a member of the American academy of adoption attorneys. You know, we’re, we’re members of ALA, which is one of our voluntary bar associations. And then we were highly involved with the federal bar association, immigration law section. So Rachel and I, my law partner, Rachel and I both teach nationally, which is one of our favorite things to do so happy to be here and chat with ya.

Kevin:
Excellent. Well, thank you for sharing that little bit there and yeah, the south part of the state, if you’re not familiar with Virginia. Yeah. The Southwest part, it really starts to become a little bit more desolate, but beautiful out there as well.

Christine Poarch:
Yeah, it’s a beautiful country. And the thing about it is that there are industries that depend on immigrant labor and we have that niche that we developed here is unusual, but we kind of have become this really regional firm in that, we’re really serving Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina into Kentucky and Tennessee, but it really is a sort of IED, one corridor, sort of transects the state and the west. And it’s an IED one corridor sort of practice or an Appalachian Region practice. And as you know, Appalachia and the Appalachian region is a very different region than the rest of the state. Not that we don’t have clients elsewhere, we do, but those clients come to us organically. We’re not directly marketing to them.

Kevin:
Yeah, yeah. Again, I love it out that way. Try to travel out there and go to the mountains, go backpacking, camping. I went up to Virginia Tech game in a couple of weeks. So there’s a beautiful area if you’re listening and you’re never been to Virginia, it’d be a really cool area to visit for sure. Wineries, all kinds of cool stuff. So for everyone listening and watching, if you’re watching the website address for her firm is below, it’s a very nice website, go check it out. You can learn more about what they’re doing. If you’re listening, it’s PorcheThompsonlaw.com and that’s P O A R C H for Poarch. So if you’re listening and go check that out, but a very nice website, kind of a cool unique brand and style to it, which Christine let’s give more about your logo and some of the styles and some of the things you’ve done from a marketing perspective.

Christine Poarch:
So we manage the practice and we have always had the practice grow out of a really intentional relationship to the clients that we serve. So initially the very first Logo for the law firm was actually Our Lady of Guadalupe’s face sort of turned down. And the logo now is actually Our Lady of Guadalupe’s rose that’s from her robe. And so while we don’t only obviously work with Latino clients, that had a particularly significant meaning for me. And it certainly, we do the work we do out of a purpose and a sense of mission, even though we are doing it both on the employment-based side and the family and individual side.

Christine Poarch:
So in terms of the website design, my husband at that point was at Topcoder, which was a company that was later bought by Wipro. And so we actually outsourced, we crowdsourced that website and got some amazing results back as you’re probably aware, Topcoder at that point and there are other platforms similar to Topcoder. Basically you send out your specs, several people respond if not tens or dozens, depending on the size of the project and the design work that they did, we wanted something clean. We wanted something that wasn’t stock photos, we wanted faces and stories that we could tell. And so we, I love you saying that it’s a nice website. We have literally done nothing to it in a year and a half. So it makes me feel a little bit guilty. We just haven’t, we have not been the best stewards of a website. Let’s put it that way.

Kevin:
Well, since I own a company that does websites for law firms. That’s-

Christine Poarch:
That’s something you can help with [crosstalk 00:06:51].

Kevin:
Well yeah, you should get your website up to date. It should be weekly, monthly, but at the same time, it’s got a unique brand. It’s got the real photos, it’s got real faces and people. And I think that’s a big thing. And I think every firm should try to put that effort in. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes, it’s hard to get photos and staff doesn’t want to get photos but I think it’s important to capture, not just the firm, the purpose, the mission they see who you are. Clients can connect with you more through that and videos even better if you can do that too. But also, if you’re a locally focused company, you’re representing your area and pulling that through as well. So I just think [crosstalk 00:07:39]

Christine Poarch:
Yeah, well we update the blog, and obviously our staff, but it’s just one of those things that as, as you’re aware, cause you work only with attorneys, there’s just so many competing things that demand your attention. And the most important thing is the client work that you’re doing. So things like that tend to fall off the table. You know what I mean? At some point, at least for a period of time. And there has to be some level of grace you extend yourself to be able to continue to run a practice with that website. That’s current, but it’s probably not operating at its peak performance just because there’s a time crunch. And especially with COVID, of course we’ve all been dealing with very different and difficult circumstances. It’s affected law firms very differently. And so we’re seeing that there’s even more competition now I think for our time than there was before.

Kevin:
Yeah, no, I understand. And yeah, that’s why we’re here. I’m not trying to pitch ourselves on the podcast necessarily too much, but it’s-

Christine Poarch:
Well it’s your podcast, you can pitch yourself all you want to [crosstalk 00:08:47]

Kevin:
You do what you do, and-

Kevin:
Well, it’s like my attorneys, I have business attorneys that we rely on and they do that work for me because for one I can’t, and I don’t know what I’m doing. As an entrepreneur I’m going to say, Hey, I think we should do this. And they’re going to say, yeah, yeah, yeah, whatever, you should do this instead. And we take their opinion and we let them do the work. So, but either way I love the style, like the brand, I liked that it means something and you just didn’t get some random logo. That’s just the initials of the two partners or something like that. So I think you’ve done a good job with that. So I think in that regards, kudos.

Christine Poarch:
We have that sense of intentionality behind the practice is what’s driven it from the start. And that goes into things very organically, we kind of became a firm of women. And that is in part because a lot of our policies are driven by that very first employee that I was just discussing and the needs that she had at that point in her life. And so I think that those policies have continued and just happened to be ones that engender the strong female workforce. And those were things, like our leave policies, but also things like the fact that every federal holiday we closed so that there was some gap, there’s some break that is very intentional since our work is federal in nature.

Christine Poarch:
And then I think that the aspects of the firm that are very relational. I think it was also very much kind of female vibe sort of feel. And I think that’s important because I think there’s some warmth to that, that doesn’t get communicated always with law firms and some familiarity. And that meant we broke some rules and I don’t mean ethical rules. I mean, it meant we broke some of these like attorney rules about how you have to have a suit on every second. Because the work we’re doing is, sometimes has us in the middle of a field, sometimes we’re literally transiting through, oh, sorry, lost my earbuds, we’re transiting through an orchard. To talk to them or other times where we are in boardrooms and we look the part, but there is an authenticity I hope that comes through that is driven by, not just the work we do, but the way that we approach that work.

Kevin:
No, I think it’s amazing. I think it’s awesome. And your firm should organically grow and go where it needs to go and you should be proud of that. So I think it’s, again, you can see the difference with it and just looking at the website, of course, just talking with you and seeing how you guys operate and it’s legitimate, it’s authentic. So I think that’s what you should be- and I think there’s a lot of firms out there, especially with smaller firms that maybe are not that authentic and do crazy advertising and try to [inaudible 00:11:52]. Standing in front of a courthouse and random stuff like that on all their photos. So I think what you’re doing is great.

Christine Poarch:
Yeah. And I think that piece of it with the kind of work that we do, that particular, that also is how we get our referrals. I mean, 90% of our referrals are word of mouth from previous [crosstalk 00:12:15] clients, or they are word of mouth from attorneys, meaning attorneys are referring their clients to us because we have this specialty that you can’t dabble in, that you can’t just practice a couple of hours in a week. It’s like tax law. You have to be on top of that all the time. It changes every hot second. Especially in the last five years. It has been absolutely mercurial. And it changes.

Christine Poarch:
And so with that kind of practice, you’re really depending on those relationships to drive your future revenue. And so you want to make sure that those kinds of relationships are solid, that you have with your other referring attorneys. Whether they’re corporate attorneys referring to companies that need to bring in foreign labor or whether they are families that are referring other families. So I think either way, those are critical relationships.

Kevin:
Well one of the things you’re hitting on, is something I believe in and something that obviously you do as well, is niching and focusing and specializing. And I think we’ve had over a hundred, I think about 150 managed partners on this year that I’ve gotten to talk with. Plus we have clients, but it seems like the general practitioner, the lawyer that’s in town that just does anything and everything seems to be going away. That’s, from what I can tell. People are coming out, starting their own firms, and they’re picking a very specific practice area. And then maybe they’ll add things if they grow and add partners naturally, but I see a lot more niching happening. And I think that’s a good thing.

Christine Poarch:
Yeah, I think that’s right. I mean, we had to combat some stereotypes. We’re still asked how our clients pay us because the stereotype is we’re only representing migrant farm workers or something, which is absolutely not true. we’re representing CEOs and engineers and lots of different professions. And then we’re also representing lots of different families, not just families from central and South America, but all over the world, more than 108 countries.

Christine Poarch:
So I think that there is some stereotyping that goes into- you have to inform your community, who you are in a way that lets them connect the dots when they need to. And I think that’s one of the best pieces of advice I got when I was starting out was make sure the bar knows what you’re doing. make sure that you’re visible and that you’re doing the kind of work that really does lay out for people, the nuances of your practice, because they do tend to stereotype the work that we do and that not, and again, not from a prejudicial place, but rather from just the little bit they know about immigration law-

Kevin:
How they have been educated about it.

Christine Poarch:
Yeah, We work these with these sorts of clients. And of course the clients we work with are much broader, much more diverse than most people assume. And so we do have to do a little bit of work to inform folks of that. The one thing we avoid, ’cause I just think it’s ethically sketchy, is doing any direct client identification unless we have consent and have things signed because basically you’re telling their story and maybe they’re not going to fully understand the impact or the distribution of that on the line. And so we’re a little careful with that, about identifying clients in any way, because even with verbal consent, of course, something could take off. Socially, within social media that you didn’t intend or have a consequence you didn’t intend. And so we do try to be careful about that.

Kevin:
Excellent. So, yeah, niching is huge. We niche, obviously it’s so much easier to say, Hey, here’s what we do. And here’s what we do it for. And then it’s easy for people to refer you, what does Kevin do again? I don’t know, you don’t get any referrals if you just work with everybody. So, that’s been powerful for us and for you as well it seems so. What are some, another question is outside of the referrals and relationships you have, which are the most important, what are some of the things that you’ve done that’s generated business outside of referrals?

Christine Poarch:
I think that our speaking we do, if you look on our website, we have a couple of tabs that I think are relevant to that question. One is public education. We do a ton of public education for free. So some of our best marketing is getting out there in the community and talking to groups, whatever those groups are. Sometimes we actually put on seminars that we bring in stakeholders that work with the immigrant community. We do all of those for free. Sometimes we’re talking to churches, sometimes we’re talking to smaller groups, but that kind of marketing where it isn’t really. It’s really purposeful work that you’re doing that just has a marketing consequence. And that has been some of the most effective work that we’ve done.

Christine Poarch:
That the second thing would be our relationship with community partners. We purposefully associate with community partners that have distinguished reputations, that we feel we can throw support behind them, whether it’s financial or it’s other support. And so we put on a lot of those programs. This is obviously not since COVID, but we put on a lot of those in conjunction with those community partners. And those were people like the U.S. Attorney’s office, or the Attorney General of Virginia’s office, meaning they’re not just private partners like Grown-up Spanish, which does an enormous amount of work translation and interpretation, but also basically public private kinds of cooperation’s to educate social workers, teachers, whoever we’re working with. Or whoever we’re talking to about those particular issues that affect their work with immigrants. And so I think that’s been an incredibly effective way of partnering and it has the consequences of, I think, spreading our brand a little more broadly or diffusely.

Kevin:
That’s excellent. And yeah, to me too, I’m excited to get back to normal hopefully, and get out in front of people. I like to do workshops and speak if I can, and get out in front of groups. I was talking to her, Christine, earlier is for me in my company, looking to get involved with more groups, associations and things like that. But COVID has been a little bit of a hinder on that, but hopefully things will turn around and we’ll get back to that until 2022. So last question, I guess, before we let you go, I’m sure you’re busy today. What are some of the plans going forward obviously COVID is still hanging around, but outside of that, if you put that aside, what is really the next couple of years, what’s on your radar for what you’re trying to accomplish?

Christine Poarch:
Well, it’s not that different than what it was before COVID honestly. I mean, the problem is of course COVID interrupted those initiatives, but our public education project. The work that we do in that sector, that I’ve described, is incredibly important to us. And we want to get back to that. But I think that the other focus or the foci that we’ve had is within the adoption, the employment law sector. Our goal is to be a regional law firm. Our goal is to specifically help the Appalachian region with its labor needs, with our employment based work. And that requires an understanding of the region. It requires-

Christine Poarch:
I’ve been here my whole life, except for when I was a Texas transplant. And so, it’s a region that has its own sort of peculiarities and its own demands and its own issues and its own needs. And I think that to the extent that we can serve those in a regional way, that is probably the prime focus of our work. And because our region, even if you’re just talking about Virginia, we have clients as far north as Harrisonburg. We have clients as far west as Richmond, but we try to focus really west of Richmond. And we’re very clear about really where that regional focus ends and begins.

Christine Poarch:
So our goal isn’t to be a national law firm. And as you know, a lot of the marketing work that’s out there, especially some of the online platforms that you’re putting profiles on, those platforms are sometimes a little too diffuse in their national focus, or they’re there too diffuse in their state focus. And so what you end up doing is you’re basically working with an entity that says, oh, we can get you in Virginia and West Virginia and Tennessee and North Carolina. And you’re like, I don’t want to be in all of North Carolina. I just want to be in the part that has been the Northwest part. I don’t want to be at all of Virginia even. I want to be west of Richmond and I want to focus my marketing efforts there.

Christine Poarch:
And that’s a little hard with the existing online platforms that are the most commonly known ones. It’s a little harder because you’re drilling down into cities and in a rural area like ours, you’re not capturing the same impact that you might be if you were in New York or DC. So it’s helpful to us to have, I think, a more customized approach to our marketing efforts.

Kevin:
Yeah. Well for us, our approach is very, to try to drill down as much as we can, whether it’s geo-targeted content for SEO or advertising and getting very specific with zip codes and neighborhoods and stuff like that. So there’s ways to do it, but most people think, oh, you want to go big? And it’s like, no, you really do want to focus. You want to focus and then work your way out if you need to, but go hard focus first and then work your way out if you feel that’s not big enough of an area, but that’s great. So as far as focusing there, any growth, any new attorneys that you’re trying to add, what do you see on that side of things?

Christine Poarch:
Well, I think that we’ve always grown. We’ve intentionally, sort of, held our breath when COVID started, just to see what was going to happen. And ironically, it didn’t really affect anything until the election. And the election is really what affected us more than anything. And that was a very brief moment where I think people just did not know what to expect coming out of that election. And so it resulted in, for example, contracts signed during that third quarter, fourth quarter, we’re a little low. Usually third and fourth quarter are our biggest quarter. So- [crosstalk 00:23:20]

Kevin:
People are holding off and saying, wait, let’s see what happens.

Christine Poarch:
Because that immigration is federalized. So there were some really big concerns about what was going to happen with the election in November. So I think in terms of the growth plans, we’ve always had a steady growth. We’ve always grown the size of the firm, and we’ve never been afraid to take risks in doing that. Meaning you’re never going to be able to grow if you just wait until you’re super comfortable doing it. There’s always a level of discomfort when you’re pushing the envelope. And I think with us over the next year or two, what we expect is that we’re going to be cementing that regional influence. We’re going to be working with more and more corporate clients as we develop that practice area even more beyond just my capacity with other attorneys. And I think we just added two attorneys in the last year, two years, one that graduated and took the bar and passed the previous year and one that just took it and passed this year.

Christine Poarch:
So I think we’re already seeing that sort of growth. We already within our office, we tend to kind of promote from within. And so we are moving folks around and we’re constantly looking at how best to run efficiently and how to stay lean. and that’s internally our focus at this moment, but externally, I think it’s just making sure we have a regional presence that’s strong and that we’re beginning to build those relationships within each of our niches. My partner has a very different sort of community than I have. And those two communities are both ripe for development. So I think that we’re ready to get beyond COVID and quit using the word. I’m so tired of hearing it.

Kevin:
Amen to that. I am on board. Lets all do our part to help Christine in that.

Christine Poarch:
Yeah, that’s right.

Kevin:
All right. Well, I appreciate you so much coming on to share your story. And I hope a lot of firms listening or other attorneys listening can take a lot from this. I think being focused, being niched, some of these you guys are going with education and community partners. I think it makes a lot of sense. And you’re focused on a certain area too that you’re not just trying to go everywhere. So I think a lot of learning, check out the websites below. Again, if you’re watching on video, is there another way that people can connect with you if they’re tuning in to the show?

Christine Poarch:
So basically we have a email that goes directly to me and Rachel, both and it’s info@poarchlaw.com, I N F O at PoarchLaw.com. And it could also be info@PoarchThompsonLaw.com, whichever one you want to use.

Kevin:
Excellent. Awesome. Well, thanks for sharing that. Hopefully anyone got any questions you want to learn more about Christine connect with her, you got questions. Or if you’re an attorney in her area, looking in a specialized in immigration, maybe reach out and talk to her because she’s going to be growing. So everyone also tuning in, if you want to, see this episode on our website also be up on YouTube. It’ll also audio version will be up on our podcast versions as soon as the editing gets done. So look out for that. You can get to Arraylaw.com/podcast. We’ll feature that up there within probably the next week or so. And then of course, if you need help with any kind of marketing for your law firm, please reach out to us or at Arraylaw.com. You can contact me directly. If you have questions, happy to help you, you can reach out to me personally, Kevin@thisisarray.com and that’s it.

Kevin:
Christina, anything else you’d like to share before we go?

Christine Poarch:
Thanks so much for having me.

Kevin:
All right. Don’t use the word COVID anymore. Have a great Wednesday. I don’t know how it’s Wednesday already. It seems like it’s Monday.

Christine Poarch:
And almost November.

Kevin:
Almost November, but thanks so much for coming on today and sharing. I will be up in your area in a couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll have the chance to stop by and see you, but I’ll be there for I think the duke Virginia Tech game. So looking forward to that. So everyone have a great day. Thanks so much for tuning in and we’ll talk to you soon.

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