I had a great discussion on facebook last night with a fellow lawyer about the challenges adoptive parents face when trying to find competent legal counsel. Here are some things you should consider before signing a retainer agreement:
Has the lawyer processed cases in the country you are adopting?
Every country has its own nuances. Taiwan has the PAIR program. Pakistan has Mrs. Edhi and NADRA. Mexico has DIF. And the list goes on. If the lawyer hasn’t processed cases in your chosen country before, they won’t know about these things, won’t be able to advise you properly and will waste your time and money while they’re trying to figure it out.
How many cases has the lawyer processed before? How long has he or she been doing this? How many of these cases does the lawyer currently have pending?
The more cases a lawyer has handled and the longer he or she has practiced, the more likely that they will be able to achieve a successful outcome for you. If the lawyer currently has cases pending that are similar to yours, it’s a good sign that they handle those types of cases routinely.
Ask the lawyer what exactly he or she can do for you.
A good lawyer will know exactly what needs to be done and how to do it. The lawyer should be able to provide you with specifics at the time of the initial consultation (I will file these applications; you will need this evidence; I can advise you on these specific legal issues). If the lawyer tells you that he or she will “guide you through the adoption process” find someone else. Remember also that lawyers should not be offering to assist you with the homes study. You do not need a lawyer to assist you with obtaining a home study. You are paying an adoption agency/ social worker good money to assist you with this part of your case and it’s not a lawyer’s area of expertise. Lawyers also typically cannot help you find a baby in another country
A note about legal fees:
I have heard of desperate adoptive parents agreeing to pay enormous sums of money, (in some cases more than $15,000), for orphan petitions. Keep in mind that an international adoption from a well-established adoption agency will often cost over $20,000. If a private lawyer is charging you anywhere close to this amount to complete only the immigration portion of a case, something is very wrong.
Don’t be afraid to ask for references.
Lawyers can’t provide you with the names and contact information for previous clients as this information is privileged but any lawyer who practices regularly in this area will be able to provide you with the names and contact information of other lawyers or people in the adoption community who can vouch for his or her services. I have also asked previous clients to reach out to prospective adoptive parents to discuss the types of services I provide.
What other work does the law firm do?
Immigration and adoption are highly specialized areas. There are only a few attorneys in the United States who practice in this area routinely. Try to find a firm that dedicates its practice exclusively to immigration issues.