Finding the right immigration attorney can be a challenge and you need to make sure that you find the right one to entrust your important immigration matters to his/her expertise. Here are a few things to consider in making the right choice:
1. Find an immigration attorney who practices only immigration law (or predominantly immigration law)
US immigration law is highly complicated — a web of statutes and regulations at the intersection of several government departments and agencies. There are continuous changes. When an attorney practices more than immigration law, it can be difficult to stay up to date on important changes and issues. It is ideal to find an immigration attorney who practices exclusively or predominantly immigration law.
2. Figure out how much experience the attorney has in the particular area of need in immigration law
Among the practice of immigration law, there are many areas of specialties or categories: deportation and removal, asylum, employment-based, investment-based, family-based, consular processing, waivers, etc. Depending on the area of need you have, ask the attorney or firm, how much experience they have in the particular category of immigration law you need assistance with.
3. Read the attorney and firm’s online reviews
If true and accurate, online client reviews speak volumes of the legal product of an attorney and law firm. It usually takes effort to go online and write a few words, and seeing what other clients have to say helps to give you an idea of what others have experienced. Online reviews are our modern-day “word of mouth.”
4. Read the attorney’s online profile and firm website
You learn a lot about an attorney by reviewing his/her website and profile. What is his/her philosophy on legal service? Where did he/she study and train? Where has he/she worked beforehand? What makes him/her interested in immigration law and care about his/her clients? You can generally understand the attorney’s approach to his/her practice and search for common areas between your needs and his/her approach.
5. Review the attorney’s standing with his/her State Bar
After learning where the attorney is licensed, you can review his/her state bar’s website to see what his/her standing is with the bar and if there have been any complaints. For example, you could run an internet search for, “Texas State Bar” for an attorney licensed in Texas and search for their profile.
6. Talk with the attorney
Make sure you talk with the main attorney who will be overseeing your case, but not just the supporting personnel. Do you feel comfortable with the attorney? Do you feel a sense of trust? Does he/she listen to you and ask the right questions during the consultation? How quickly does he/she respond to your emails and phone calls? How much of the work will the attorney be doing vs. how much is done by a paralegal or assistant? Having this conversation before retaining an attorney and firm will put your mind at ease and help you to know that you have found the right attorney for your case.
7. If you can, consult with at least two attorneys before retaining their services
Your case is important. Just like getting a second opinion from a medical doctor, it can be useful to consult with more than one attorney about your case for a legal opinion. Additionally, this will help you decide which attorney you feel more comfortable with and trust with your case.
Remember: You usually get what you pay for, so the least expensive attorney is probably not going to give you the same level of service if you were to pay more. At the same time, consider the firm’s focus on quality vs. quantity and whether you are going be just another number or an actual person whom the attorney genuinely cares about. Do not just go for the flashiest attorney or firm. They might have an advertisement on TV, a billboard, or their own television channel; that does not necessarily mean that they are the right attorney or firm for you. If you are trying to find a “deal” by hiring a “notario,” you could get yourself into more trouble than if you just hired an attorney. Additionally, notarios are not licensed attorneys in the United States.
The following is not legal advice but merely suggestions to consider from a practicing immigration attorney.
Ruby L. Powers
August 2, 2011
US Immigration Attorney
Law Office of Ruby L. Powers