Finding a good immigration lawyer is one of the most critical steps to get your immigration case approved and secure yourself and your family. Finding a good immigration lawyer can seem overwhelming because of the competitiveness of the legal industry. The following are quick tips for finding an immigration lawyer that is the right fit for you.
Get referrals for a good immigration lawyer from family or friends
Friends and relatives are usually ready to recommend an excellent attorney and point out a poor one. However, if someone suggests a lawyer, ask the person why. You may ask an attorney who you have worked with to recommend an immigration lawyer. People you trust are the best source for finding a good immigration lawyer.
Consider an attorney who is a specialist
In the United States, most lawyers specialize in specific areas of the law. A general practitioner may not know that much about your immigration matter. Immigration law is complicated and changes continuously. It is not an area for a jack of all trades attorney. The more focused an attorney’s practice is, the more likely you are to receive the quality service you deserve.
Schedule an appointment for a consultation
Though many people can feel intimated meeting a lawyer it is best to consult with an attorney about your case before hiring his services. There is nothing like the interaction between you and the attorney in helping you select the best immigration lawyer for you.
Immigration lawyer consultation fee – Paid or free, does it matter?
You should not base your choice of attorney on whether the attorney has a consultation fee or not. An attorney may offer free consultations and charge you $8000.00 for your case where one with a $100 consultation fee may charge you only $2500.00 to get the same result. A free consultation can sometimes cost you money.
Let’s face it; no one works for free. Some savvy people will never consider an attorney if he does not charge for his time. With free consultations, the attorney may not spend much time with you unless he believes you will become a paying client.
Paid meetings, on the other hand, are a legal service with obligations on both sides. You should expect that the attorney will take the time to give you helpful information and some preliminary legal advice in exchange for the consultation fee.
Most experienced immigration attorneys may charge for a consultation because they realize that their experience and insights can be very helpful to a prospective client. Their insights may save you from making costly mistakes based upon ignorance of immigration laws. From the consultation you will also be able to get expert answers about your case, learn about the best path to meet your immigration goals and learn about the costs and risk of making your application.
Questions to ask your immigration lawyer
- How long has the lawyer been practicing immigration law? How much of the attorney’s work is immigration related?
- Does the attorney charge for a first consultation before taking your case? If there is a charge, how much does it cost and how long is the initial consultation? Who will choose the attorney and pay the legal fees for an employment-based immigrant petition?
- How much will it cost to hire an attorney? Does the attorney bills using an hourly rate or does the lawyer use flat fees? Some attorney’s offer payment plans while others do not.
- Does the attorney get paid before or after he renders service?
- Is the attorney a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association?
- How much are the government filing fees for my case?
- Are there any costs in addition to attorney’s fees and filing fees? You need to be aware of other costs which you may have to meet for your case . These may include the costs of a medical examination and translation services. In an employment case there is usually the cost of credential evaluation services for foreign degrees.
- If you hire the attorney will the lawyer personally handle your case? You should also ask about who you will communicate with if you have questions.
Ask about fees and costs AFTER the consultation.
It is better to ask about immigration lawyers fees and costs after the lawyer knows the relevant facts of your case. Similarly, a lawyer who does not ask about the facts of your case before quoting a fee may be doing you a disservice. A lawyer has a duty to check the facts of a case before quoting a fee. An attorney may charge less for a case when she is familiar with the facts and get to know the parties. Ask whether the lawyer has payment plans for her legal services. Besides mitigating your risks, payment plans can serve to make legal services more affordable for most people.
Compare fees and billing schedules
Price is self-explanatory. However, the price is only one thing to consider. Living and working in the United States is an important matter and price alone should not be the reason for a choice of attorney. Consider the lawyer’s trustworthiness, skill, and experience. An attorney who does not return your calls, treat you with respect or clearly explain your case is not the best immigration lawyer for you at any price.
Verify the attorney’s credentials
Make sure the person is a qualified attorney and not an immigration consultant, or a former lawyer who has lost her license. Contact your local state bar or the state bar that authorized the lawyer to find out if the attorney is in good standing, and if he or she has ever been subject to disciplinary action. Also you may may check the Department of Justice website to find out if the immigration lawyer is presently subject to discipline or was Subject to Discipline in the Past by the Executive Office for Immigration Review’s Attorney Discipline Program.
Read immigration lawyer reviews
Nowadays most people search for an attorney online. Many review sites have emerged. Some are more transparent and trustworthy than others. The sites serve the human urge to get reassurance from peers before an important decision. Therefore before choosing an attorney, you should read immigration lawyer reviews on such sites as Yellow Pages, Yelp, and Google+. Please be aware that some online review sites may give more prominence and higher rankings to attorneys who give them advertising dollars. So pay more weight to any recommendations that you receive from family and real people you know and trust.
It is about having a good working relationship
Not every immigration lawyer is a good fit for everyone. Even though the attorney may have great credentials and has practiced for many years, he or she may not be the best immigration lawyer for you, if you are not comfortable confiding in the attorney and relating to him or her.
While you want a good immigration lawyer, attorneys also want good clients, i.e. people who are cooperative, appreciative of their work and who can pay for legal services. They also want to work with people who will value their advice and listen to them. After all, the attorney-client relationship must work for the client as well as the attorney. After practicing for several years, most attorneys develop a six-sense for persons who make good clients and those who do not. Warning signs of people who may not make good clients include:
1. A person who does not bring relevant documentation to the first consultation or a person who misses the first meeting.
2. A person who consults the attorney just before a filing deadline or immigration court hearing, that they have known about for months.
3. A person who terminated his former lawyer(s) and who owes the attorney(s) money for services rendered or time devoted to the case.
4. A person who is reluctant to sign a legal services agreement and pay the first deposit.
5. A person with very unrealistic expectations of such factors as the documentation involved, the processing times and the fair value of quality legal services.
6. Persons who do legal work on their own and need an attorney to correct their mistakes.
The immigration code is complicated and confusing, and there are not always quick and easy answers to immigration questions. No lawyer can or should guarantee results or imply that she has a special connection with government agencies that guarantee a positive outcome. The best immigration lawyers are often those with the experience to appreciate the complexity of the law in the real world. They do not guarantee results, just their diligent hard work in all the circumstances.
Pick the best immigration lawyer for you
After evaluating the attorneys, select the one you get to know, like and trust. An important part of hiring a lawyer is having the peace of mind that comes from a good working relationship with an expert you trust. Last, do not become paralyzed by inaction but trust your gut after doing your homework. Invest a small amount of time in the process and you will get the best outcome.
For more information:
American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) Immigration Lawyer Search*
* Not all members of AILA take part in AILA Immigration Lawyer Referral
State and Local Bar Associations