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Posted 07/22/2017

Top 8 Things to Look for in an Immigration Law Firm

Top 8 Things to Look for in an Immigration Law Firm

So you need immigration advice but you don't know where to start? Not to worry: this list will help you demystify the top 8 things to look for in an immigration law firm. 

1. The financial cost (if possible) should not be your priority

Immigration is an area of law notorious for trying to make a quick buck. Indeed, you may have already experienced this firsthand, with a number of law firms rushing to offer you their business the minute you hinted that you require immigration advice. But while it may be tempting to go in for the cheapest offer, remind yourself that you are likely to get what you pay for, which is a lack of attention, a lack of doggedness, elements that make all the difference between success and failure in this complex area of law. So, if possible, do not let finances be your priority. 

2. Get a referral from people you trust who have gone through an immigration law firm

Like in every other area of life,  referrals often guide you to the right place. That is also the case in immigration law. Think about it, who would be in a better position to trust than someone who has actually been helped by an immigration law firm? 

3. Don't know anyone? Check out AILA

If you don't have anyone who can give you a referral list, you can begin your search for a lawyer on AILA. AILA is the American Immigration Lawyers Association. It was established "to promote justice, advocate for fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration and nationality law and practice, and enhance the professional development of its members." With over 12,000 members, the group provides regular continuing education training for immigration lawyers. If an immigration law firm is truly focused on immigration law, it should be a member of AILA. If it is not, it may be an indication that the law firm is spread out across multiple areas, and therefore perhaps not best equipped for your particular case. 

4. Once you have your referral list, it is for you to do your own research

  • Watch our for immigration fraud by educating yourself on this list of  commons scams provided by the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services website. Amongst these, the deceptive representation of oneself as a lawyer under the label "notary public" - known as the "notario fraud"- is definitely one to be wary of. 
  • Google: a simple google search on the lawyer and the law firm, with key words like "bad reviews", "complaints", "testimonials", will take you a long way. Also take into consideration what it would mean for you if the law firm in question is not present online. This may mean that the law firm is new, or that it does not have many clients, or that it is focused on a particular region.

5. Contacting Immigration lawyers and law firms

At this point, your research should not be over. You need to connect and interview your prospective lawyers and make sure that you get the following information. 

  • Do they have references? if their clients have been satisfied with their work, this should not be an issue
  • Is immigration law their speciality? Immigration law is extremely vast and while many law firms and lawyers are eager to try out new things, you do not want to be the guinea pig. Make sure that they tell you of their experience and their performance on your particular type of case. And get that from them in writing. 
  • Do they speak your language? With immigration law, as with any area of law, having a lawyer who can translate the legalese into clear words in your native language will be a source of considerable relief.

6. Continue your research

 If you have been provided with client references, use them to get a thorough understanding of your prospective lawyer's work styles. There are many immigration lawyers who take on many cases without being able to honor them properly. Many also relegate much of the critical work to their paralegals. Find out as much as you can from others about the performance of the firm and its lawyers. 

Check their credentials by contacting your local state bar. Ideally, you want your lawyer to be licensed, in good standing and with no history of being subject to disciplinary action. 

You can also check the following prominent online reviews:

7. Do you like your lawyer?

Immigration law being what it is, it is likely that your relationship with the law firm you chose will not be a one-time affair, which is why, it is critical to like your lawyer. Ask yourself this: is this someone that you can see yourself building a close relationship with? 

8. Push to negotiate fixed fees ahead of time.

Once you have decided on whom to represent you, then you need to think about the fees. 

If an attorney is experienced enough with your particular need, they should be able to provide you with a close estimate of the cost. Ideally you want to negotiate for a fixed fee ahead of time. Note however that the practice of billing is not uniform: some lawyers bill by the hour while others charge a flat fee. So before signing anything, make sure to ask about all the hidden, additional costs that may be incurred. 

Immigration law is complex and you will need someone who is willing to fight for you. Do not compromise on the lawyer who has the experience, the success rate and the drive to make your case a successful one. Armed with this list, you are on your way to make a smart choice. 

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