Immigration is a maddeningly complex and counterintuitive area of law. In addition to being complicated, immigration law involves dealing with a bureaucracy manned by government officers that are often poorly trained and almost always indifferent to the intricacies of individual cases. More than one client has come to me at their wit’s end and confessed: “I finally determined that the only way I was going to get through this is with the help of God, and a good immigration attorney.” Please consider the following in selecting an attorney to help you through the high stakes maze of immigration:
1. Meet your prospective attorney in person. Email and telephone communication are great mediums for exchange of information, but immigration cases are very personal and should require in-person meeting at least at the initiation stage to make sure your attorney is a good fit. Make sure you ask the questions that are important to you, and pay attention to how the attorney responds. Does the attorney listen to you? Or do they appear more intent on moving you out of the office so they can get to the next person waiting? Does the attorney look and act professional? While you are at the attorney’s office, look around. Is the officer professional? How are employees dressed? Is the office a professional workplace?
2. Do a bit of research. Before meeting a prospective attorney, research them. There is a lot of information out there. Google is a great resource. You should also look on websites such as AVVO.com that provide information on professionals including client and peer endorsements. Each attorney should also be admitted to a state bar. You can review the state bar’s webpage to see if the attorney has been disciplined for improper conduct. Finally, any immigration attorney who is serious about practicing immigration law should be a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). Go to AILA’s website at aila.org to see if the attorney is a member.
3. Avoid the dabbler. Avoid “full-service” attorneys that claim to specialize in many areas of the law. Many attorneys who do “a little bit of everything” do not excel at any one area of law. The same is even truer when that one area of law is the ridiculously complex immigration law. You need an attorney that focuses on your type of cases to insure that you have an experienced attorney that can help you.
4. Don’t assume. An expensive attorney is not always a good attorney, and a good attorney is not always expensive. I have had consultations with individuals who were previously with another attorney, and who had hired that attorney because: “Since they were charging so much, I thought they must be really good.” This is simply not the case. Many bad lawyers charge high fees. The reverse is also untrue. Just because an attorney is a good, well-known and visible attorney does not mean that they are expensive.
Armed with your faith that comprehensive immigration reform on the horizon, do not wait, prepare yourself now by selecting a great immigration attorney with a wealth of experience and knowledge to guide you through the immigration process. By using the guidelines above you cannot go wrong.