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Listserves: IMMLOG - Some Ground Rules

by Kevin Dixler

Editor's Note: ImmLog, comprised of a group of U.S. immigration attorneys, was created to mentor attorneys, learn from others, and keep the content legal, with the hope of generating more interest and a better understanding of the law. While the article is devoted to specific guidelines for ImmLog, the suggestions for proper etiquette can be applied to any discussion board or Listserve. As more and more immigration atttorneys avail themselves of online practice tools, we hope you will find the points presented useful. ImmLog can be found at

ImmLog, like most Listserves, is not a forum for arguments or off-topic discussions. The Listserve is to improve our practice and understanding of immigration and visa law. Members usually limit arguments and personal discussions to private e-mail and conversation with the exception of annual Listserve events.

Occasional non-offensive off-topic posts, used sparingly and clearly identified with "off topic" in the subject field are permitted.  Sometimes, this information proves particularly courteous, helpful and interesting to others. If you need to complain about a particular attorney, examiner, IJ, or politician, then warn us that this is the content and use extreme care in posting.  A Listserve cannot take responsibility for a sudden and unexpected posting by one of its members. 

Don’t criticize other attorneys by name unless the “concern” is expressed with care, courtesy and in good faith.  It may prove counterproductive, since discretion is often based upon our individual experience and knowledge.  Be constructive and understanding, but do it off the Listserve, when appropriate.  If someone has missed a fact due to an edit, truncate, or oversight, then appreciate the possibility in your response or it may prove embarrassing.   

I don’t think that anyone will mind a reasonably well thought out critique on an opinion, an examiner or IJ as long as you make sure that you first state – “in my opinion.”  Some may need to be reminded, including myself at times, to keep it private between yourself and the attorney.  If an IJ issues an odd order, then quote it verbatim.  These orders can be amusing and troubling, but it may be necessary to disclose them. 

Our Listserve has thrived, but if we see unsubstantiated criticism or second hand statements of fact about a particular Attorney, IJ or Examiner without identifying the source, then we are genuinely concerned and may take appropriate steps, off the Listserve, to discourage these posts.  Please use care if you criticize and try to be constructive.  I may be forced to delete messages that do not express an “opinion.”  Please do not be offended.  I will consider modifications as long it is clear who is sending the message.  I may also ask for clarification.

All defamatory, abusive, profane, threatening, offensive, or illegal materials are strictly prohibited. Do not post anything in an ImmLog message that you would not want the world to see or that you would not want anyone to know came from you.  Do not challenge or attack others. The discussions on the lists are meant to stimulate conversation not to create contention. Let others have their say, just as you may.

ANONYMOUS QUESTIONS – I will post any members question on an anonymous basis without disclosing the member, who wished the query posted.  After nearly two decades on BBS-es and Listserves, I have tolerated a few replies that might seem non-responsive, indignant, or occasionally arrogant.  No one likes to be criticized in an open forum.  Therefore, I have always kept the questioner’s identity confidential and will continue to do so, no matter who it is.  Please address the anonymous questions to [email address withheld Ed. 2/23/06]  Place the words, IMMLOG ANONYMOUS QUESTION in the Subject line.  I will cut and paste; there will be no indication of the writer’s identity in an anonymous e-mail.

In addition, these are some common considerations that also may assist those who are unfamiliar with Listserve etiquette that you may not find in Emily Post

  1. Messages should include a signature tag, your name, affiliation, location, and e-mail address.
  1. Try to state concisely and clearly the specific topic of the comments in the subject line. This allows members to respond more appropriately to your posting and makes it easier for members to search the archives by subject. 
  1. Include only the relevant portions of the original message in your reply, delete any header information, and put your response before the original posting.  However, if the entire content is needed to follow the string, don’t edit the original message.
  1. Only send a message to the entire list when it contains information that everyone can benefit from.
  1. Try to send messages such as "thanks for the information" or "me, too" directly to individuals--not to the entire list. Do this by using your e-mail application's forwarding option and typing in or cutting and pasting in the e-mail address of the individual to whom you want to respond.
  1. Do not send administrative messages, such as remove me from the list, through the Listserve. Instead, email Kevin Dixler at to be removed from a list or follow the instructions at Yahoo! Groups. If you are changing e-mail addresses please notify Kevin Dixler or another moderator, if applicable.
  1. Warn other list subscribers of lengthy messages either in the subject line or at the beginning of the message body with a line that says "Long Message."
  1. Try not use ALL CAPS on messages.  It is interpreted as screaming at someone.  ALL CAPS are usually typed in anger and/or frustration.  Occasional use of CAPS within a message is okay, but use them "sparingly" and within reason.
  1. Sometimes, members may use some acronyms or symbols.  Some of us are more familiar with LOL (laughing out loud), FWIW (for what its worth), IMHO (in my humble opinion), OTOH (on the other hand), AOS, AO$, etc.  If you do not know what something means, then ask me or address the member who posted the e-mail. Sometimes acronyms are obscure or even user generated to avoid the keystrokes.
  1. Please try to do preliminary research, first, where possible before posting a question.  I admit that some of us don't have the same resources, so let us know your thoughts and don't be intimidated with this reasonable aspiration. If you cannot figure it out, then let us know the legal issue and what you think that you know.  Try to be reasonably detailed without disclosing your client's confidentiality.  Occasionally, we meet with the same clients.  <smirk>

All questions are fair game in spite of these suggestions provided members want to answer.  I would generally encourage questions and answers, where there is evidence that someone attempted some research or the answer is obscure.  If there are any concerns, then please address them to me off the Listserve.

Other Listserve Concerns

Some complain about the quantity of Immlog messages sent through this Listserve. There are several means to create order from chaos. First, use the filter in Internet Express or Outlook and route all messages with the subject, “Immlog” to a separate folder. Filters are easily set because all Immlog e-mail includes the term, “Immlog in its subject. Second, you may edit your Yahoo! Group options, so that you receive a daily or weekly “digest” of all e-mails sent. This way you can review only those messages that are of interest to you.

In addition, some members are periodically suspended from the Listserve, when their e-mail bounces. If you are not receiving Immlog e-mail, then it is possible that your e-mail is bouncing and/or you have issues with your internet service provider [ISP]. Sometimes, members have automatic messages that bounce back in repetition to Yahoo! Groups. This can cause a temporary suspension, as well. If this takes place, then watch for a re-verification message. You may want to contact our office, but if you receive a re-verification notice in your inbox or bulk e-mail, you may want to take it seriously where you are not receiving Immlog messages.

Finally, encourage others to join the list by providing them with this e-mail address,, so that we can consider the request.  This list should be limited to immigration attorneys or those attorneys with immigrant clients, who are interested in starting or maintaining a immigration law practice. 

About The Author

Kevin Dixler has practiced immigration and visa law for over twelve years. He has conducted online chats for ILW.COM in the past. He joined the American Immigration Lawyers Association in 1993 and served on its National Admissions and Removal Committee in 2000. He has participated as a panelist at 2002 National AILA Conference, among other presentations on behalf of the immigration bar.

Immlog is a Listserve that is limited to attorneys, in good standing, who practice immigration and visa law and are likely to follow the guidelines. To join Immlog, send an e-mail to moderator Kevin L. Dixler:, and provide your full name and a means to verify standing in the bar.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.