Immigration Solutions Lawyers founder on anticipating the glass ceiling problem

Anne O’Donoghue talks how the firm has developed its "eclectic" client base since 1993

Immigration Solutions Lawyers founder Anne O’Donoghue discusses the most common immigration-related issues today, the firm’s pro bono efforts for the year, and humanitarian initiatives in the wake of recent global drama


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Kylie Speer  00:00:07 Hello and welcome to Australasian Lawyer TV I'm Kylie Spear and joining me today is Anne O'Donoghue Managing Director and Principal Lawyer at Immigration Solutions Lawyers. Immigration Solutions Lawyers has been named winner of Australasian Lawyer's Top Boutique Firms for 2024. Welcome to you, and congratulations. And thank you so much for joining us today. 

Anne O'Donoghue  00:00:32 Oh, it's a pleasure to be here today. 

Kylie Speer  00:00:35 Well, firstly, and what was your impetus for launching Immigration Solutions Lawyers? 

Anne O'Donoghue  00:00:41 Well, I suppose the glass ceiling, I launched, it was actually at O'Donoghue and associates at that stage in 1993. And I thought, if I don't set up something on my own, there's going to be a glass ceiling problem later down the track back then there weren't a lot of women setting up their own immigration law practices. And I did that in 1993. And thinking a little bit further down the track. I look now and I think, what perhaps I didn't know then what I know now, but it was quite a courageous thing to do back in 1993.  

Kylie Speer  00:01:20 Absolutely. How has the firm's client base expanded since then?  

Anne O'Donoghue  00:01:25 Well, I suppose we've got a very eclectic client base. I mean, we do our humanitarian phases. We do personal visas, we do business phases, we've got a very strong corporate immigration practice. And we've sort of delved into really niche areas like red notices how they affect people on these are applications for character considerations like direction 99, which is very topical at the moment. So it certainly has been a journey, and developing expertise, and also working with a great legal team as well. And 

Kylie Speer  00:02:07 since the World opened back up post COVID, what are the top three most common immigration issues the firm has encountered?  

Anne O'Donoghue  00:02:16 Well, I suppose processing of visas is one of them. We are experiencing long processing times. And I suppose that to explanations for that. There are a lot of applications that are not decision ready, we always try and do our cases decision ready. But I found out today that the Department of Immigration, I have experienced a 28% increase in partner visa applications across the board. That's from people coming from a whole lot of different countries where they want to be reunited with an Australian partner. So it certainly is very challenging times at the moment working in this area. The two more points, I think, well, I raised earlier, furniture has become a very big consideration in visa applications, community safety aspects, there's a whole lot of factors where character is taking into consideration. And also citizenship, a lot of people now are able to have dual citizens. And Australia allows people that have dual citizenship, and they are looking for a second citizenship. And a lot of people want to have Australian citizenship. But the criteria in relation to citizenship, it's a privilege, it's not arrived. And there is a harder threshold and barrier as it should be to get over with citizenship applications. 

Kylie Speer  00:03:52 What pro bono programs is the firm focusing on this year?  

Anne O'Donoghue  00:03:57 Well, what we're trying to do, we are doing several ministerial roles in the pro bono area. And we're also trying we were successful getting the Afghan women judges visas a couple of years ago, and we're still trying to get some of their family members into Australia, which we're doing on humanitarian basis and pro bono. So our pro bono work is ongoing. And it's always been ongoing. Some of it is low profile, and some of it is high profile. But it's I must say the pro bono work is extremely satisfying to work on. And sometimes it's very difficult when you're dealing with big time delays, and people are experiencing hardship. But in the end, it's very good work to do. And you know, I'm very grateful to the international Bar Association that gave me the opportunity to work in this humanitarian sphere and work to get the visas initially Wait for the Afghan women judges to Australia. 

Kylie Speer  00:05:03 And finally, and in light of the global problems in recent years, what if any humanitarian initiatives have the firm launched in response? 

Anne O'Donoghue  00:05:13 Well, again, I mean, we're very supportive of people from the Ukraine and what's going on in, in the Ukraine at the moment. Again, supportive for people from Afghanistan, and I suppose very strong on the rule of law, which is extremely important in any country that is not strong on the rule of law, I think it's causing massive problems down the track. So human rights to our soul to the firm is a very important aspect. And human rights can be blended into the migration program. At the moment, the migration program in Australia is coming under a lot of scrutiny in relation to the way in which it's managed. But it's not only Australia that's experiencing this, Canada, the US and the UK. This seems to be a global problem for people, which are immigration nations and Australia is an immigration nation. It's, you know, it was built on immigrants. It's just choosing the right use of immigrants and getting the balance, right, where community safety is concerned. But I'm hopeful that as we move into 2025, we'll see more changes. And we're certainly I think our firm is very pragmatic and able to adapt to those changes. Whether we have another change of government next year is going to be another issue in itself, where the migration program is going because the two political parties at this stage have totally different types of agendas. And there are clear distinctions between the two but we don't make political judgments in this practice. We work with clients with with the the issues and work with the government of the day and the legislation that's in place.  

Kylie Speer  00:07:19 Well, thank you so much for your time today. And congratulations once again. And on you're clearly very well deserved accolade. It was lovely speaking with you.  

Anne O'Donoghue  00:07:29 Well, I just like to say that this is not a one off effort. I mean, I have a great legal team. And, you know, everyone in our legal team really should be congratulated because we don't achieve these outcomes without a great work ethic for the legal team. And it's the legal team that I'm very grateful to. 

Kylie Speer  00:07:49 Absolutely. And thank you, of course to our viewers for watching the latest episode of Australasian Lawyer TV. We look forward to seeing you again soon.