Our story began in 1989, when I was first starting out as a corporate and real estate lawyer. Working 60 hour weeks, I helped real estate developers and Asian investors carry out multimillion dollar deals for office buildings, apartment buildings, and condominiums. One day, I asked one of my partners, “All we do is to help the rich get richer. What are we doing of any lasting significance?”
So, in June 1989, I took a month off to travel to Asia to gain some perspective. While in Hong Kong, a student uprising led to the infamous Tiananmen Square massacre on June 4, 1989, and hundreds of people pleaded with me to help them immigrate to Canada. I resisted, thinking “I’m a business lawyer! And there are so many unscrupulous people taking advantage of desperate immigrants—I don’t want to be tarred with the same brush!”
However, a wise missionary friend said to me, “Jeffrey, that’s exactly why the world needs honest, excellent immigration lawyers. If you don’t help them, they’ll get thrown to the wolves!”
As an immigration lawyer, I could do more good and be of greater service; that realization led me to establish Lowe & Company in 1990. From a small office with one staff member, we have grown over the past 30 years to a team of 12, with lawyers, immigration consultants, and support staff. We’ve served clients from over 70 countries in their journey to Canada, helping them to work, invest, study and immigrate in an efficient, effective, and caring manner.
The Why Behind the Work
At Lowe & Company, we often tell the story of a man who passed by a construction site and saw three bricklayers. He asked the first one, “What are you doing?” The first bricklayer responded, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks!” The man asked the second bricklayer the same question; the second one replied, “I’m earning a living for my wife and family.” Finally, the man asked the third bricklayer what he was doing; the third one proudly proclaimed, “I’m building a cathedral!”
We know that immigrating to Canada is one of the most important (and stressful) events in each of our clients’ lives. We also realize that we have to do our jobs well and make a living. However, from the junior receptionist to the senior lawyers in our firm, we understand that what we do and the way that we do it plays a significant part in “building the cathedral” in our clients’ lives. And therein lies the source of fulfillment and satisfaction in what we do.
Meet the CIO
People sometimes ask me about my title, as Chief Inspirational Officer at Lowe & Company. My first responsibility is to inspire our team to be the best that they can be and do the best that they can do for our clients, for themselves, for Lowe & Company, and for the community.
Secondly, I seek to inspire our clients by giving them hope and a future. By utilizing technical skills and innovative strategies, I help clients visualize and realize dreams they didn’t know were within grasp!
Thirdly, I seek to inspire other lawyers and immigration consultants. Canada is a big country, and immigrants are key to its growth and prosperity. By inspiring other immigration professionals to see their work as an integral part of their clients lives, we can build a better Canada.
And finally, I seek to inspire immigration officers, government officials, and the community to join us in building a better Canada!
— Jeffrey S. Lowe
Why We Practice Immigration Law
Jeffrey S. Lowe
This article was first published in October 2005, for American Immigration Law Journal Bender’s Immigration Bulletin.
I come from a business and real estate law background and have a degree in commerce as well as law. I’ve practiced law in British Columbia for twenty years, the past fourteen of which have been focused primarily on immigration law. I could practice, and have practiced, in several other areas of law, some of which might be more lucrative or challenging; however, I have found that immigration law is immensely fulfilling in all respects.
Laying Bricks or Building Cathedrals
At Lowe & Company, we tell the story of a man who passed by a construction site and saw three bricklayers. He asked the first one, “What are you doing?” The man replied, “Can’t you see? I’m laying bricks!” The man asked the second man the same question; the second man replied, “I’m earning a living for my wife and family.” Finally, the man asked the third man what he was doing. The third man proudly proclaimed, “I’m building a cathedral!”
We know that immigrating to Canada is one of the most important, and stressful, events of each client’s life. The way that we all perform our work has a great effect on our clients’ lives. Of course, we all must do our jobs; and we all must earn a living; however, from the junior receptionist to the senior lawyers in our firm, we realize that what we do, and the way that we do it, plays a significant part in building the “cathedral” in our clients’ lives. And therein lies the source of fulfillment and satisfaction in what we do.
There will always be unscrupulous sorts, whether lawyers or not, who will offer all sorts of promises to potential clients that you cannot, or should not, match. Don’t stoop to the lowest common denominator; your integrity is worth more than that. Before I changed my practice focus to immigration law, I asked a missionary friend from Hong Kong what he thought and told him I was concerned about the reputation of “slimy immigration consultants” and being tarred with the same brush. My friend wisely said, “That’s EXACTLY why we need good immigration lawyers, who can give professional, competent advice, to potential immigrants with honesty and integrity.”
I believe that a profit is a by-product of doing something well. It is not the end in itself; however, if you focus on building the “cathedrals” in people’s lives, with honesty, competence, and genuine care for your clients, you can not only earn a decent living, but have a fulfilling life. And that is worth more than great riches!
Of Immigration Law and Jerry Maguire
In the hit movie Jerry Maguire, Tom Cruise plays Jerry Maguire, a successful sports agent focused on the bottom line: money. He handles nearly 100 clients at SMI, a large sports management firm, but it is obvious his perspective has been focused on dollar signs. Essentially, he is a “shark in a suit” (sound familiar?). When one of his clients is seriously hurt, he tries to console the client’s son using the same shallow hype he used to promote the client. After seeing the contempt that the boy has for him, Jerry is conscience-stricken and realizes what he has been missing: that his clients are people, worthy of respect and caring. And so, Jerry has an epiphany and writes a long mission statement about how the business has been corrupted by greed and how agents should operate: with fewer clients, less money, and more personal attention. With great fanfare and expectation, he gives the memo out to his colleagues at SMI.
The reaction is not what he expected; he gets fired! Not only that, he loses all of his clients except one: the obnoxious Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who rants incessantly about how badly he is treated and how he never gets any love or respect. He sticks with Jerry but gets him to chant: “Show me the money! Show me the money!” in a frenzied mantra. Helpless with only one client, Jerry goes along with him.
Jerry does his best to promote Tidwell, but his client’s attitude and ego make him his own worst enemy. Along the way, however, you see the relationship between Jerry and Rod changing; they become more honest with each other and more real. Jerry marries Dorothy (Renee Zellweger), the only person from SMI who believed in him enough to join him. Tidwell senses the trouble in the relationship when Jerry spends more time on the road with him than with Dorothy and tells him to go home to be with her. Jerry, on the other hand, bluntly tells Tidwell why he isn’t getting the respect from the fans that he should: because it is clear that he’s in it only for the money and not the love of the game. If he would put as much heart into the game as he did his relationship with his wife, Tidwell would have the adoration of the fans, and the money would flow.
Sometimes immigration law is like that. We get demanding clients, stressed out because their cases have not been approved or are taking forever to get through the system, and they shout “Show me the visa! Show me the visa!” at us. And like the sports agents, we take on as many clients as we can, try to keep them thinking that we really care about them, then charge as much as we can get away with when we finally show them their visas.
But there is more than that. Sure, the clients need their visas; that is what they initially come to us for. But, like Rod Tidwell, they also need someone to care about them, and they want to care about you. You may be one of the most important people (if not THE most important person) to them on earth right now, and though they may not say it, they need and want to know that you really care about their cases.
Few clients will come to you and tell you their personal needs, however, or their fears and hopes. After all, you are the busy lawyer whom they are paying much money to handle their case. But if you can take the time to assure them that they are more than dollar signs, that you are with them, then, regardless of the outcome, you will have touched their lives and made their situations more bearable.
And the world will be a little bit better because you cared for them as people.
The Indonesian Businessman
Abiman was a Chinese businessman living in Surabaya, Indonesia. Being ethnic Chinese was both a blessing and a curse; the majority of the wealth and business in Indonesia is held or controlled by the 5% of the population that is ethnic Chinese, which makes them both feared and hated.
Abiman owned a small bus company, which carried passengers between cities in Indonesia. Working long hours, he built up the business to twenty-five buses, with route licences to smaller cities, and earned a “middle class” living, by North American standards: enough to send his two daughters to school overseas. But there was always an underlying threat of ethnic violence against them.
In 1998, their worst fears were realized. The economic collapse of Southeast Asia during the 1997 economic crisis together with skyrocketing prices for basic food staples brought hardship amongst the people, and the Chinese were the scapegoats. “Help me and my family come to Canada!” he pleaded. During the race riots, Chinese homes were ransacked and burned, women and young girls were raped and killed in front of their helpless husbands and fathers, and there was widespread pandemonium. People drove to the airport trying to get flights out and left their Mercedes on the road, rushing to catch whatever flights they could.
In the midst of this, we were able to finalize immigrant visas for Abiman’s family. They had fled Indonesia for the relative safety of Singapore, and then arrived in Canada as soon as they could. However, in the process, they had lost almost everything.
They called me as soon as they had safely landed in Canada, to take me to lunch with their family. Relieved that they had made it, we arranged to meet in a nearby restaurant the next day.
Upon entering the restaurant, I saw the family; exhausted, stressed, but relieved to be in Canada. In all of my previous dealings with them, I had always spoken to the family in Chinese; however, that day, they were in Canada. Abiman, the head of the family, actually spoke the least English of all. His eyes met mine, and he stood up slowly to greet me. He gripped my hand with a firmness and determination that belied the trauma that they had been through in the past three months. Then, slowly, with carefully rehearsed words, with solemnity, Abiman said: “Mr. Jeffrey … I…no, no, I and my family … wish … to thank you … from the bottom.. of.. our hearts!” Tears were in his eyes.
I turned my eyes away and was silent for a minute; here was a family, who had just arrived from a strife-torn country, who lost almost all they had; yet now they were free! And grateful beyond measure.
And all of the money, fame, and glamour of overseas travel was scant reward by comparison.
Why We (Still) Practice Immigration Law
Jeffrey S. Lowe
In 2005, 15 years after founding Lowe & Company, I published an article for Matthew Bender titled “Why we practice Immigration Law.” In that article, I explained that it wasn’t about the money, though one needs money to live. It wasn’t about the intellectual challenge of doing interesting work, either, as fascinating as it could be.
The reason we practiced immigration law was to make a positive impact on the lives of our team members, our clients, our fellow immigration lawyers and professionals, and Canada as a whole. The article was designed to make young immigration lawyers aware of the value of immigration law to the USA and Canada, as well as the significance of what we were doing.
That article was a success! Immigration lawyers from Seattle to Hong Kong wrote in, saying how we inspired them to do their work well for their clients, for their team, and for their communities.
Fast forward to 2021, where Lowe & Company has just finished our 30th Anniversary. Are we still practicing immigration law?
The answer to that is a resounding yes!
It has always been about people. My late father, Robert Lowe, used to quote this from Stephen Grellet:
“I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness I can show to any fellow creature, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”
Whether it’s inspiring our team, giving hope to our clients, or inspiring other lawyers and immigration professionals, we always ask ourselves, “How can we have a positive impact on someone today?”
There is a story that, during a visit to the NASA space center in 1962, President John F. Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He interrupted his tour, walked over to the man and said, “Hi, I’m Jack Kennedy. What are you doing?”
“Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
To most people, this janitor was just cleaning the building. That said, in the larger story unfolding around him, he was helping to make history. No matter how large or small your role, you are contributing to the larger story unfolding around you; and when your entire team embraces that type of attitude and belief system, incredible things happen.
We have been blessed with an unbelievable team on this journey over the last 30 years. Our team of 12 is like our family; they have been with Lowe & Company for an average of 15 years, with 3 of them over 25 years.
Everyone, from the senior lawyers to the newest hires, knows that the work they do is not just paperwork, nor are they just earning a living. There’s this unspoken understanding that what we do is as important to the families that we serve as putting a man on the moon. We have worked together, cried together, rejoiced in victories for our clients, and spent countless late nights wrestling over documents and innovative strategies to open the proverbial door for each and every one of our clients.
Now, it’s not just the education, experience, or achievements we look for in our team members. We look for people with the right aptitude and the right attitude; these are people that have the capacity and desire to do meaningful work that will positively influence our clients’ lives at a time when they need it most. We look for people with a servant’s heart, who are less impressed by illustrious titles and driven more by the opportunity to really help and serve others.
King Solomon, the wealthiest and most successful man in the world, once lamented that everything was meaningless. He then declared, “There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and that he should make his soul enjoy good in his labour. This also I saw was from the hand of God.”
At Lowe & Company, we may not be putting men on the moon, but we are putting people in Canadian cities, where they can establish themselves, their families, and make Canada a better place!
We’ve served clients from over 70 countries, from urban metropolises like Los Angeles to remote areas like the Solomon Islands, and we are privileged to be able to aid them on their journey to Canada.
We have clients who are descendants of Holocaust survivors; we also have clients who deny that this ever happened. We have clients who witnessed the atrocities in Tiananmen Square in June 1989; we also have clients who scorn the thought that the Chinese government did anything wrong.
Where is the common thread in all of this? Well, each of our clients has a story and all of them are seeking a better life in Canada, either for themselves, their families, or their future generations. Does this mean that I agree with everything they believe? No, absolutely not. However, by doing the best we can for our clients, we earn the right to be heard. We can also share with them what it is that we believe and why.
Rescuing Indian tradesmen
One day, I received a call from an Immigration attorney in Colorado who was a leading expert in human trafficking visas. He had some Indian clients who were lured to the USA with the offer of high-paying welding jobs; however, this turned out to be fake. When they got there, their passports were taken and they were put in motels until they were offered work. More often than not, these small jobs only paid them $5 an hour. They ran to a local church and sought help from its pastor, who reached out to the Immigration attorney, who then reached out to me.
We were able to secure them jobs (which we rarely do) and work visas for a pipeline project in Northern Alberta, where they earned more in one month than they had previously earned in an entire year. They were extremely thankful for the opportunity; however, at the remote camp out in Fort McMurray, there wasn’t a whole lot going on. The Indians had a fervent faith in God, and asked if they could start up a church service at the camp’s rec room on Sundays. They were given the green light, and ended up being a positive influence on many others in the whole camp!
Giving a Chinese family new hope and special education for their son
Family is important to us, and we know how important it is to our clients. We helped a couple from Asia whose 12-year-old son suffered from a learning disability. In their home country, because the academic competition was so fierce, he was ignored and left out. Tutoring options also were not available, so they didn’t have much hope.
Despairing over their son’s future, the parents approached us for help. Because they had a business background, we found a solution for them here in Canada to first come to study, then later start a new division in a manufacturing firm. Their son enrolled into a school where the teachers and other students were really kind to him (unlike in his home country), and he was able to get proper tutoring, make new friends, and have a bright future.
Reuniting a Colombian single mom with her family
Another time, we helped a young lady from Colombia, who was a new mother. Living alone as a single mom in Colombia was extremely difficult, because she had to find a way to survive with her child without the support of a partner or her family.
You see, the majority of her close relatives, including her parents and siblings, had already immigrated to Canada. However, because she was not considered a minor and had a child, she was turned back by the Canadian visa office when she tried to apply for a study permit. They suspected she would not return to Colombia when her permit was up.
We were able to use Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds to help them come over and start a new life in Canada. We got her a 2-year study permit, which also allowed her child to attend Canadian public school. After her studies had come to a close, we made sure she was allowed to work and then apply for permanent residence for herself and her child.
Our Colleagues in the Profession
For the past 30 years, I’ve taught business immigration law and strategies to hundreds of immigration lawyers and consultants across Canada, many of whom have been kind enough to give us sparkling reviews on LinkedIn, our website and others. Still, there are those who ask, “Jeffrey, this is great for us… but why are you helping us, your competitors?”
I think back to my father, who was born in Victoria, BC in 1919. He grew up as a poor Chinese boy in Victoria, BC, and battled through poverty, racial discrimination, health issues, and many other challenges to become one of the top life insurance agents at Sun Life, the biggest insurance company in Canada.
My dad’s father died when he was only 6 years of age. Only because of a $2,000 life insurance policy that my grandfather acquired before passing was my grandmother able to keep my father in Canada. As a result, my father learned about the life-changing benefits of life insurance.
Even at the top, my father never saw other insurance agents as competitors, but as co-workers trying to make Canada a better place. He knew firsthand the value of life insurance; after all, if it wasn’t for that $2,000 life insurance policy, my father and his family would have had to return to China. He understood the positive difference life insurance could make in someone’s family, and so became an “evangelist” for life insurance!
Having grown up in Canada, I’ve been blessed to live in one of the best countries in the world, and privileged to be able to help people on their journey. I understand the positive difference living in Canada can make for someone’s family.
At Lowe & Company, we know the blessings that Canada has bestowed upon us, our families, and our communities; in fact all of our team members (except myself) are immigrants! If we can help more people and families build our country into a better place, does it really matter whether Lowe & Company does it or another law firm does it? How I see it, if we can inspire other immigration lawyers and consultants to take their role seriously to positively impact their clients, and equip them to be able to do so, that is yet another way we can amplify our impact!
Leaving a Legacy
Someday, each of us is going to leave this earth. The question then becomes ‘what legacy will you leave?’ Will your legacy be founded on illustrious titles and accolades? Or will people remember the testimonies and the positive impact you made on those whose lives you have touched?
American gospel singer Nichole Nordeman once sang a song which resonates with me called “Legacy.” Here are some excerpts:
"I don't mind if you've got something nice to say about me And I enjoy an accolade like the rest And you could take my picture and hang it in a gallery Of all the who's-who's and so-and-so's That used to be the best at such and such, It wouldn't matter much. I want to leave a legacy, How will they remember me? Did I choose to love? Did I point to You (God) enough? To make a mark on things I want to leave an offering A child of mercy and grace Who blessed your name unapologetically And leave that kind of legacy!"
So we’re still practising law… to leave a legacy!