Attorney of the Month Nirupama KulkarniA Hands-On, Creative Approach to Immigration Law
By Dan Baldwin
“I am personally involved in every case. And I work very hard to provide creative solutions for the immigration issues that my clients come to me with,” says Nirupama Kulkarni, founder of Indus Law Firm, PLLC.
Being hands-on and creative is necessary when working within the current system. Crafting long-term strategies is essential to success, she says.
“Our current immigration system doesn’t take a common-sense approach, focusing more on politically charged issues instead of trying to design a system that facilitates and bolsters our economic growth and global competitiveness.”
Through her practice, Kulkarni helps companies—ranging from startups to large multinationals—understand and navigate the complex immigration system so they can attract and retain world class talent to grow their business. She also focuses on foreign investors, students and entrepreneurs.
Kulkarni says the current system is definitely a big frustration for her and her clients. She always tries to educate clients, colleagues and the community about the immigration process, its drawbacks and its impact on individuals, families and employers.
That frustration and a sense of justice led to a lot of advocacy and awareness-building. She says she is not alone, noting that large corporations such as Microsoft and Google invest millions of dollars towards trying to fix the system so that they can bring in talented employees. “There are pervasive myths and a lot of misinformation out there about immigration in general. But we as a country are shooting ourselves in the foot if we don’t act soon to catch up to other countries that already design their immigration policies to achieve their economic growth objectives.”
She says that although the system is challenging, it does allow for a lot of creative thought in providing solutions. “It’s very rewarding when you’re able to help an employer acquire needed talent or to help a family stay together, which is a good trade-off. I think the country sees that this is something that has to happen and it will probably happen soon.”
She advocates tailoring the immigration system with an eye towards attracting and retaining talented and motivated people. The government seems to founder in a very politically affected system. Decisions often depend on who is in office and what the feeling of the country is at a given moment in time. It’s a very emotional issue.
A Focus on Business Immigration
Kulkarni started her firm in 2010 with a focus on corporate and business and employment-based immigration. Although she provides full immigration services to individuals and families, her focus is on high-skilled workers, physicians, investors, and companies wanting to expand to the U.S.
Since immigration law is federal, her trade area is nationwide. She currently has a staff of one paralegal, and is interviewing additional attorneys and support staff for a planned expansion to handle an increase in business volume. The firm also partners with and provides pro-bono work to organizations and nonprofits regionally and nationally who provide immigration services either free or at a reduced cost, and that are more humanitarian in nature, such deferred action, asylum, or victims of crime.
Kulkarni says, “I think a real advantage of my practice is my personal, hands-on approach with every case I take on. I make sure that I communicate personally with every client and closely monitor the case so I can be more flexible in the way I approach the strategy.”
She earned her B. A. in English literature from the University of Louisville, an MBA in Entrepreneurship from the University of Louisville, and her J.D. from the David A. Clarke School of Law.
She believes in a collaborative style with staff and with clients. She hires based on a person’s ability to learn and his or her passion for the field. “We don’t have just a faceless assembly line of cases, which can happen in larger firms. I have kept my firm small for that very reason. We provide clients with a lot of personal attention, and they know they can always reach me with any questions or concerns, which helps ease their mind during what is usually a very anxious time,” she says.
Kulkarni approaches every case as a learning experience that can help make her and her practice a little better. “It’s a matter of constant improvement for me. Each case is a learning experience because the immigration law and policy landscape is always changing. When I get a decision on a case I focus on understanding why so I can continue to improve and move forward,” she says.
On the Personal Side
Kulkarni was born in India in and moved to the U.S. with her family in 1986. Having been through the immigration process herself provides a unique perspective when guiding clients through the complicated immigration system. The entire family is actively involved with immigration issues. Her father serves as the Director of the Office of Globalization for Metro Louisville. Her mother runs the Beaded Treasures Project, a non-profit that helps refugee women become more economically self-sufficient.
Kulkarni is also active in many community and civic organizations. She is the co-founder and Vice-chair of the Louisville Bar Association Human Rights Section, a member of the Rotary Club of Louisville, serving on its International Service Committee, and is involved with many community organizations focusing on Louisville’s international population, including the Greater Louisville International Professionals, World Affairs Council, and the Indian Professional Council. Kulkarni also serves on the boards of the Kentucky Science Center and the Community Foundation of Louisville. Her commitment to improving her community and engaging the immigrant community has also led her to appear regularly on KET’s Kentucky Tonight as well as several seminars and panels on the subject of immigration and international law.
Kulkarni is optimistic about the future of immigration and immigration law. “I do think that at this point the majority of Americans are in favor of immigration reform and I don’t think that it’s been that way in the past. I think people realize that our attitude toward bringing in talented people from abroad is changing. There needs to be a more deliberate and inclusive immigration policy on that end. I think the rhetoric has always focused on people who are undocumented when they come to the U.S. and remain without status and that is one part of it, but a smaller part. There are many, many more people who are here legally who cannot move forward and are in limbo. It’s definitely ready for change.”