Joey Poarch – Poarch Thompson Law
The year 2020 has been a homecoming for Joey Poarch after more than 20 years on the road as a technology consultant and leader. Now chief information officer at the immigration and adoption law firm founded by his wife, Christine Poarch, he no longer spends his days and weeks going from city to city. Instead, he’s using technology to allow the firm to better serve individuals, businesses and families.
And while Poarch may have grown accustomed to providing large-scale, big-ticket IT solutions, he says the human impact Poarch Thompson Law has is far-reaching—and not without challenges.
“It’s interesting—I’ve worked with huge Fortune 500 companies like Coke, Home Depot and the New York Stock Exchange with really large IT budgets. When they do tech projects, they don’t mess around,” Poarch says. “Small law firms don’t have a large tech budget, so I’ve had to toe around what we can change that will have the biggest impact. I’m not just looking for random technology; it always has to solve a problem.”
A legal welcome mat
Founded in Salem, Virginia, in 2003 Poarch Thompson Law handles immigration cases as well as domestic and international adoptions. The firm has grown to nearly 25 employees since its founding, and as Poarch notes, the last few years have delivered swift, sudden changes within national immigration law and policy.
The firm helps individuals, families and businesses obtain temporary visas or green cards for permanent residency, processes applications for naturalization and asylum, and litigates cases before administrative and federal courts.
Poarch Thompson Law also has a significant employment-based practice which assists clients within the technology, construction, manufacturing and hospitality industries, among others, to bring highly skilled or necessary workers to the U.S., he adds. Though he’s not an attorney, Poarch has had a close view of how intricate, confusing and frustrating immigration processes can be to business owners, individuals and families.
“It’s been a very interesting few years,” he says. “You don’t know how quickly a policy could change and we have to be ready to move quickly when policies shift or changes are implemented to protect client interests.”
Applying tech solutions
Better tech helps. Though he crafted the firm’s cloud-based technology solutions from its start, Poarch says the most significant tech transitions began in 2010, as he migrated from using servers to the Salesforce cloud platform using AdvoLogix software to store client and case information.
The analytics enable the firm to categorize case work, report on revenue, assign work and manage growth areas, Poarch explains. Since the AdvoLogix implementation, he’s been customizing the Salesforce platform to better support attorneys, paralegals and clients with one innovation that specifically resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even before Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam issued an executive order on March 24, closing non-essential businesses, Poarch Thompson Law had already gone remote, equipped with the technology solutions necessary to support staff outside the office.
“The firm never stopped operations, never closed and didn’t have to scramble to find solutions,” Poarch says.
First, he made sure the firm’s Voice over Internet Protocol phone system worked appropriately. Then he integrated an app from Conga on the Salesforce platform enabling e-signatures to be used where permitted, even though many government forms require a wet signature.
The Textey app, first implemented about five years ago because some clients said they preferred texts to emails, became especially useful, Poarch notes. Not only can clients send screenshots of documents, the app also records and stores all messages in Salesforce to protect the firm against liability. Slack has also provided an alternative to chat and email for intra-office collaboration.
When the pandemic struck, the Poarch Thompson Law office was close to capacity and the firm was considering an expansion. With it clear that the staff can work remotely and still serve clients effectively, that may not be necessary now. Whether the firm will go to flex staff scheduling has not been decided, Poarch adds, but having options is serving them well.
Off the road again
He’s no longer on the road, and now he’s not far from his roots in Jarratt, Virginia, where Poarch grew up on a peanut farm still operated by his 84-year-old father. Yet that’s not the life his father wanted for him, and the younger Poarch developed his interest in technology while in high school.
He’s a Hokie, having earned both his bachelor’s degree and a master’s in management science at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg. After graduating with his bachelor’s in 2000, Poarch became a CRM consultant at PeopleSoft. It was the start of an itinerant life—there were years he spent up to 50 weeks on the road, he says.
While he was able to provide some support to the fledgling law firm, in 2003 Poarch moved on to consulting and management roles first at Apex IT and then with Appirio over the next 15 years, before he became a vice president of platform service at Topcoder.
In March 2019, the Poarches invested in Woobot, a startup connecting its customers’ teams with their enterprise Salesforce data in Slack and Microsoft Teams. He remains an advisor at the company, but by the end of 2019, his time on the road was drawing to a close. In January 2020, he joined Poarch Thompson Law full time.
The pandemic has closed the Poarch Thompson Law physical office to the public and it’s kept Poarch from performing live as a guitarist and singer for the band Chasing Fall. The gigs aren’t happening, but the band did release an album in April. But the law office and clubs will reopen, and Poarch is looking forward to what a new normal may bring.
“I’ve enjoyed being able to come to an office and be around people that I know,” Poarch says. “Since my wife owns the business, I’ve been able to contribute and push for things that have a direct impact on how the firm provides services, and that kind of innovation has a profound impact on the firm’s success.”
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