Dealing with immigration laws and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) without the help of an experienced attorney is a difficult task. However, finding a good immigration attorney can be just as challenging. Below is a list of things to look for when choosing the right attorney for your case:
1) Is the focus of the attorney’s practice only immigration law or do they do other legal work as well? The immigration legal field is so large and complicated that the most knowledgeable immigration attorneys generally practice immigration law exclusively.
2) How quickly does the attorney respond to you? You attorney (or potential attorney) should always respond to you within 1-2 business days. It can be against Ethical rules and laws for an attorney not to contact you in a timely manner. It is all right if the attorney only responds that they will contact you later, as long as they acknowledge your communication.
3) Has the attorney ever dealt with your type of immigration case, or one that is similar to it? It may be best to work with an attorney who has experience resolving the immigration issues you are facing.
4) How long has the attorney been practicing and gaining experience in immigration law? At least 3-5 years of experience is recommended.
5) Has the immigration attorney fully explained the entire legal process you will be facing, with the exact legal and filing fees that are due? This includes appeals and what would happen if the process is not successful. You do not want to face new fees once the process has started. Some attorneys intentionally leave out information at the beginning so it seems their legal fees are lower than their competitors. Once you hire them and pay their initial retainer fee, however, they may inform you of the additional costs.
6) What is the attorney’s reputation? Check the attorney’s Bar Association record for negative history (for an example, click here)
a. Online Reviews: A small percentage of negative reviews is acceptable. There can always be negative reviews from clients upset at the attorney for their own mistakes or regarding the decision of the Immigration Department. Even rival attorneys can write negative reviews to undermine the competition.
b. Client testimonials: You can ask for testimonials from the attorney’s other clients, but because of the private nature of the attorney-client relationship, it is usually difficult for attorneys to release their other clients’ contact information.
7) Membership in Professional Organizations. Membership in and of itself is not necessarily a benefit since generally any attorney can join a professional organization by paying the annual dues. However, membership does give an attorney access to great sources of information internal to that organization and access to other attorneys that can help on cases. For example, the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) keeps members updated as to the most recent developments in the Immigration field and provides a forum for immigration attorneys to meet and help each other with difficult cases. As a result, your attorney may have the opportunity to consult with multiple other attorneys about the nuances of your case.
8) Don’t go for the cheapest attorney. The old saying “you get what you pay for” also holds in the legal community. The legal fee of an attorney might be inexpensive but that could indicate inexperience, or that the attorney will not give your case the time and energy it requires. Likewise, the most expensive attorney might not be the best either.
9) Location: For most immigration cases, the location of the attorney’s office does not matter. Much of immigration law is based on documents and all that is necessary is access to electronic communications like phone, fax, email and Skype. Many immigration clients are overseas and do not meet the attorney until the very last steps of the process. However, in some cases a local attorney is best. These could include court hearings and interviews. That said, bear in mind that some attorneys travel to their clients for these appointments.
10) NO GUARANTEE & PROMISES: It is illegal for an attorney to guarantee the result of a case. It is also virtually impossible to give such a promise since many factors outside of an attorney’s control may affect the case. Therefore, an attorney cannot reasonably give such a guarantee. You must be skeptical of any attorney that gives a promise or guarantee as to the result of your case.
These are some key points to keep in mind when deciding to choose an immigration attorney. For more information regarding your case, please contact the JQK Immigration Law Firm at (818) 934-1561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.