This is the third of a three-part series on first steps to seeking immigration advice. This post list 10 questions you should ask your immigration attorney to determine if he or she is the right fit. The first points out things to be wary of as you begin your research. The second will discuss preparation before a consultation.
What to look out for when hiring an immigration attorney or consultant:
Immigration is a complex practice. You’ll want an experienced professional to provide you with effective legal representation. Your best bet is to interview more than one lawyer.
Here are 10 questions to ask at your initial meeting.
Also, check the State Bar of California website www.calbar.ca.gov to find out whether the attorney is in good standing with the state bar. Immigration law is federal law, therefore, an immigration attorney may be licensed in another state and practice in California. Please be sure you know where they are licensed and check with that state bar to ensure they are in good standing.
- What is your experience handling immigration cases like mine? There’s no substitute for experience. Immigration law covers a wide variety of cases, from green cards and work visas to deportation proceedings. Be sure your attorney has experience handling cases similar to yours.
- Does your firm specialize in immigration law? Immigration law may not be an attorney’s exclusive focus. Find out. You want an attorney who keeps up with the latest developments in immigration law.
- Are you a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)? AILA is a national organization devoted to enhancing the knowledge and professionalism of its members. Membership in AILA demonstrates the attorney’s commitment to immigration law.
- Will you oversee my case through to its resolution? Know who is handling your case. Will it be passed off to another lawyer or an associate? Find out what the lawyer’s percentage of involvement in your case will be, and who else will be in contact with you. Many lawyers have a team of professionals to help work your case — paralegals, investigators, researchers and administrative assistants.
- What are my chances of success? While no attorney can guarantee success, an experienced attorney should be able to analyze your situation and possible outcomes, and tell you honestly whether he or she can solve your problem.
- What is the best strategy for my case? Once you have explained your circumstances and objectives, the lawyer should propose a plan of action, with a timeline and specified deliverables. Ask about the strengths and weaknesses of your case, and the pros and cons of the various options open to you. Know the steps he or she will take to solve the case.
- What tasks will you undertake for me? Will the lawyer complete and submit all paperwork on your behalf? Oversee the administrative work related to your case? Attend interviews or court hearings with you?
- How busy are you? Can your lawyer get started on your case immediately, or does he or she have other cases ahead of you? How soon the lawyer can get to a case is especially important for clients in detention or deportation proceedings. A busy lawyer might not give your case the attention you want, while a lawyer with a light workload might not be much in demand. Use your best judgment.
- What are your estimated costs? Request a breakdown of the costs and fees. Find out what type of payment the lawyer accepts, and if you can set up a payment plan. Ask about any extra expenses that might come up, such as courier, translation or non-routine expenses.
- Do you have references I can speak to? Contact those references to find out whether they are happy with the attorney’s services, and whether he or she is knowledgeable enough to handle your case.