For decades, people have been immigrating to foreign countries in search of work. Being an immigrant is a challenge as it presents barriers like language, cultural differences, prejudices, political asylum, and many more. Despite these barriers, immigrants continue to play an essential role in various communities and economies.
The number of talented individuals who are in demand for their technical skills is ever-growing globally. This necessity has opened up new hurdles to create and maintain a workforce that will enhance one’s organization stay cutthroat. However, it becomes fundamental for an immigrant to be aware of expanded security challenges, fixed standards, and a labyrinth of quickly evolving laws.
Being an immigrant herself, Punam Singh Rogers understands these issues deeply and helps immigrants with their immigration matters.
Apart from being an experienced immigration attorney, Punam is also a Partner at Constangy and oversees its Boston office. She serves on the firm’s 13-member executive committee and co-chair firms Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Practice Group. She also counsels U.S. employers of all sizes, from start-ups to established multinationals, on immigration matters for a wide range of industries and activities.
Punam develops cost and time-efficient strategies to pursue high volume processing of immigration petitions and applications for employers with many foreign national employees. In addition to overseeing the preparation of non-immigrant and immigrant visa petition filings of all types, she regularly provides employment-related immigration compliance training to human resources and legal staff for employer clients.
Strengthening Roots to Diversified Work Approach
One of the key factors in Punam’s decision to join Constangy in 2019 was the firm’s deep and meaningful commitment to diversity and inclusion that aligned with her values, principles, and commitments. Being a minority woman and immigrant herself, DEI principles have always been the cornerstone of how she navigated herself in the law from the beginning.
Punam participated in DEI leadership in her previous firm, and she is excited to expand her role as a voice for diverse attorneys at Constangy. She’s been active in the firm’s effort to strengthen diversity and inclusion efforts within the firm. She was recently tapped to co-chair the firm’s new Diversity, Equity & Inclusion practice group focused on expanding services to help its clients do the same.
Punam believes that advancing diversity and inclusion is foundational to her professional goals. Her family migrated to the U.S. from India when she was a toddler. Thus, from an early age, she had to navigate the challenging and incompatible “American” and “Indian” traditions, experiences, culture, etc., by finding common ground. She would create her unique perspective based on varied experiences. This process taught her that even though people appear different, there are always concentric circles where experiences and values overlap. This self-honed skill is what Punam believes is the foundation of DEI today.
Diversity and inclusion play a tremendous role in the future success of the clients at Constangy. Currently, the firm is in a unique position where Generation X workers are at a stage where it is filling key leadership positions, but there isn’t enough to go around. Several industries are facing a shortage of highly experienced workers. Being an immigration attorney, Punam sees numerous companies in various industries looking beyond the borders to fill the gap.
It is well-known that the companies who leverage immigration policy coupled with strong DEI programs will certainly emerge as trailblazers in their respective industries. Punam expresses that there is strong data to support that if employers have a strong, diverse, and inclusive workforce, they outperform their competitors by over 30%.
It is a unique opportunity for today’s C-level leaders to set the stage for the future of the workplaces where an inclusive work environment is a norm, not an exception.
Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world,” and Punam wants to be part of this evolution in the future of workplaces.
The Fight for The Right
Hurdles in life are the constant reminder of one’s capabilities; there is different contentment to overcome these hurdles and grow above and beyond limitations. Punam has made it happen in her journey where she rose triumph while facing various challenges.
In the last year of law school, Punam had an opportunity to apply for internship work credits at a non-profit to handle “real client” matters in a few legal areas. Her internship a year prior also had gained her experience with the legal department of an international pharmaceutical corporation. She got selected to handle a federal immigration matter. It was this first immigration case that Punam handled which left an indelible mark on her. This experience changed the trajectory of her career as an attorney. Her first client was a Liberian woman applying for political asylum. She was the same age as Punam’s mother, who had recently passed away, and they became quite close. It was a difficult case and took a long process that was originally denied, appealed, and remanded back to the Immigration Courts for further fact find on past persecution.
Punam had a realization of how difficult it can be for numerous immigrants. When the federal Immigration Judge granted her client political asylum, the sense of triumph pretty much inked her career path going forward. She had found her purpose, and 20 years later, she is still passionate about the work she does to help others find their American dream.
Standing By Work Ethics
In law, ethics is an essential factor that drives an individual’s way of work, and Punam has always been faithful towards her work. At one of her earliest jobs, she was asked to represent a client seeking marriage-based permanent residency by a partner. It was clear to her, and it would have been clear to an immigration officer that it was not a good-faith marriage.
Punam told the partner that she wouldn’t put in a notice of appearance that will in any way damage her future credibility. The partner was quite angry at her. Needless to say, she quickly resigned from that firm. She believes that an attorney who wants to maintain an ethical reputation can’t be afraid to say “no” to a client. She says, “A firm that lives out its values won’t ask you to compromise yours.”
Love Your Work
Punam expresses that the past few years have been a wild ride for immigration attorneys and organisations, and employees who want to work across international borders. Immigration policies, rules, and regulations have shifted quickly and consistently. She says, “The practice of immigration law became like groundhogs day where you are trying to put together a 1000 piece puzzle, and every day it is jumbled up again.”
She adds, “Though frustrating and challenging at times, it has also been fascinating especially when feeling the satisfaction when you see everything come together and know that you are having a positive impact on a company, someone’s life, their career and/or their family”
The Morality of Implementing Positive Work Culture
When it comes to building a positive work culture, Punam believes that the most important part of building a positive workplace culture is to create an environment where everyone feels valued and comes together as a cohesive team. It means that no one person’s role is more important than another’s to the team’s overall success. She includes valuing the contributions of the attorneys, paralegals, and administrative teams equally for her team.
Punam expresses that it can be difficult for some law firms that are ego-driven and cling to outdated notions that attorneys are somehow “above” small tasks like making their photocopies or answering phone calls. It also applies to how experienced attorneys mentor younger colleagues – ensuring that they have a chance to make meaningful contributions and value them as more than a “billable hour machine.”
Punam ensures that her team knows the work they do for each of her immigration matters impacts not only the employer looking to hire a talented professional but also the person and their life in the US. She says, “When you view an immigration petition or application filing from this vantage, it makes the work you do have purpose and meaning. I consider this my and my team’s principal marketing tool.”
Valuable Contribution to The Communities
Punam has always provided pro-bono legal support to many local community organizations like AILA, PAIR Project, the ACLU, MIRA Coalition, MLRI, etc. She started Pro-Bono Immigration Program at her prior firm and has won several awards for her services. She also has held numerous leadership positions with the national and local chapters of the American Immigration Law Association (AILA).
Punam has a strong interest in promoting diversity in the legal community. She has also led several leadership positions on the diversity and inclusion committee of the Boston Bar Association and AILA over the past few years.
Constangy has always offered its attorneys the flexibility to pursue pro bono work that aligns with each attorneys’ passions. But after the events of last summer, its leadership team came together to talk about how they could do more to promote diversity and inclusion and address the problems caused by racial inequities.
The firm has created several working groups that constantly looks at how it can address diversity, equity, and inclusion within the firm, for the clients it serves and, in the communities where it lives and works. It is updating its pro bono program to coordinate its efforts around diversity and inclusion, including creating a program that provides staff and attorneys alike with compensated time to provide pro bono or volunteer service. Constangy has also launched an initiative to provide targeted donations to community organizations working to address social justice and economic inequality issues.
Envisioning A Value-Driven Future
A firm’s farsighted vision helps it pave a more efficient path based on its established values. One of the things that drew Punam to Constangy is that it isn’t a typical “Big Law” firm. It has the depth and skillset of the larger firms, but there is a connection to its small firm roots that keeps it agile and focused and gave it an extra boost of flexibility and creativity. She loves working with people who wear many hats, and there is a lot of that at Constangy.
Everyone contributes in their way. There’s also a genuine appreciation of the people who make up the firm – that humanity is led by the top chair Neil Wasser. It recognizes that its teams are people first, then works to grow the skills that make them great attorneys and a fantastic workplace. It tends to attract like-minded people with these shared values and principles that allow anyone to continue to grow and expand with intentionality.
Bequeathing Up-and-Coming Entrepreneurs
When asked for advice to aspiring women entrepreneurs in the law industry, Punam says, “I think that being true to yourself is key to a successful career – in law or anywhere else. Being your authentic self in your workplace environment can be difficult – especially for women and for those who come from “different” cultures.”
“I truly believe that women need to practice and flex the muscle of authenticity instead of learning to camouflage our authentic selves to fit with perceived norms, which often are outdated. We become true leaders by having the courage to revealing who we really are and integrating our skills, our traditions, and our experiences into fostering a successful team. And that can only happen when what we think, say and do are congruent or in harmony,”
“The only constant in life, whether it is business or personal relationships, is change; so always be curious, keep an open mind and never stop learning something new,” she concludes.