Hiring an attorney is no light matter. Immigrants who go to court with attorneys are five times more likely to win legal relief than immigrants without attorneys. But hiring the wrong attorney can be as devastating to your case as walking into court without one.
If you want to win your immigration case, you must find a courteous, experienced, compassionate, and qualified immigration attorney. The best way to find an attorney is to spend your time researching various options and consulting with lawyers in your area. Here’s what you must do to find the best immigration lawyer.
Ask Your Friends About Their Lawyers
If you have friends or family who have used immigration lawyers, ask them about the attorneys they’ve hired. If one seems good to you, you can get a referral and contact the lawyer directly. Your friends or family may also tell you who not to hire, which can help you narrow your options down.
If you’ve used lawyers in the past, you can contact them. They may know an immigration lawyer you can hire, and they can give you a referral.
You want to find someone with a background in immigration law and expertise in your type of case. If you plan to file for a K1 fiancé visa, you should find a lawyer familiar with filing K1 visas and handling family cases. You should not hire an attorney with a different specialty, like personal injury, as they will not have the knowledge of immigration law you need for a successful application.
Related: Green Card Immigration Attorney
Contact Bar Associations
Most lawyers join local bar associations to network with other attorneys and gain access to resources, including continuing education classes. State bar associations also gather information about attorneys licensed in the respective state as well as administer disciplinary penalties when lawyers violate their legal and ethical duties.
You should contact a bar association to ensure your hired lawyer is accredited (has an active bar license number) and has a clean disciplinary record. Most associations have referral services that let you search for immigration attorneys in your area.
You can start with the American Bar Association and the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). You should also visit your state bar association’s website and look for lawyers close to you. Some major cities and counties have their own associations as well. Abogada Ashley has been licensed by the California Bar Association since 2011 and maintains an active license in California. However, because she only practices immigration law, which is federal law, she is also authorized to practice immigration law in Bend, Oregon. She has several five-star reviews for her office in Carlsbad, California which you can read here, and is a great choice if you are looking for an immigration lawyer in Bend.
Be Mindful of Non-lawyers
While searching for attorneys, you may come across consultants, notaries, or notarios. A consultant can give you legal information, like how to apply for a work permit, but they do not have a license to practice law and as such, they cannot give you legal advice for your particular situation. A notary or notario can witness someone signing a legal document and verify the identity of someone signing a document, but they have no other legal expertise or experience. Giving legal information is very different from giving legal advice.
Do not hire a notary to represent you in any legal matter. Before hiring someone claiming to be a lawyer, you should always ask to see their accreditation (state bar number) and get information about where they got their law degree. You never need to pay to access immigration forms, and you should always keep copies of anything you sign. You do, however, need to pay filing fees to the government for many immigration forms when you are filing your form(s) with USCIS.
An accredited representative represents immigrants in limited legal proceedings and immigration interviews. They receive certificates from the Board of Immigration Appeals but do not have law licenses and therefore cannot provide legal advice. You can hire a representative if you need help with a simple court hearing or interview, but in the majority of cases, you are better served by having an immigration lawyer represent you.
Read Reviews Online
If you have a shortlist of lawyers, you should read their reviews to narrow them down. Google, Avvo, Lawyers.com, and Martindale-Hubbell are four great websites to read reviews of attorneys. Some attorneys have websites with reviews and customer testimonials, but these reviews may not be accurate. Go to third parties so you can get more accurate information.
Try to find reviews from people in similar situations as yourself. It’s okay if the attorney has a few negative comments about them as long as they are not major issues. You should also understand that sometimes, a bad review comes from a disappointed client who the lawyer fairly and competently represented, but for various reasons, lost their case for reasons the lawyer could not control. Take with a grain of salt any negative review you might see, and compare it to the number of positive reviews the lawyer has. You should never hire someone who is disrespectful, ignorant about immigration law, or vague in what they are saying they can help you with.
Do you need a qualified lawyer with glowing reviews? Contact Abogada Ashley’s office in Carlsbad, California, today!
Schedule Initial Consultations
You should schedule consultations with all attorneys left on your list. Even if you have one you are certain about hiring, you should still sit down with them and ask them questions about their expertise. Before your consultation, you should gather documents related to your case, including any USCIS forms you have completed or old immigration documents in your name.
Tell your attorney your situation, hand over your documents, and ask them for their initial impression. Once they’ve described their thoughts on your case, ask them about their overall strategy and what resources they will use for you. You should also ask about their background and experience in immigration law, specifically with cases similar to yours. If you read negative comments in their reviews, ask them about mistakes they’ve made and what they’ve done to correct them.
At the end of your consultation, you should ask them how long your case will take and how much their services will cost. Some lawyers charge by the hour, while others charge a flat, one-time fee, for their work. Depending on the lawyer and case type, a payment plan may be offered. Do not hire a lawyer just because they will complete your case quickly or are cheap. Hurrying through your case and charging a low cost may indicate that your attorney will not give you the care you deserve and that they lack attention to detail which could lead to your case being denied. Attorneys who charge higher fees typically provide more thorough representation and a better client experience than attorneys who charge very low fees and have many cases to handle at one time.
Are you ready to talk to an experienced and capable immigration attorney? Schedule an appointment with Abogada Ashley Immigration, Inc. now!
Remain in Contact With Your Attorney
You’re not done once you’ve hired an attorney. As your case progresses, you may find that your current lawyer is sloppy or inattentive. You should be ready to hire another lawyer immediately.
Immigration cases in the fiscal year 2023 wait in immigration courts for an average of 762 days. There are also delays and backlogs for cases pending with USCIS. Delays are common, so don’t panic if your lawyer says you’ve encountered a delay. Lawyers do not control how fast the government processes immigration cases. However, if your attorney fails to communicate with you about delays or makes mistakes that lead to delays, you should consider hiring someone else or ensure that your lawyer is doing everything possible to fix a mistake they may have made.
If you decide to find another lawyer, you should look at your services agreement. You may still need to pay for completed work by your current lawyer or fill out a form to request your file. Follow the instructions on the agreement and be prepared to explain to your new attorney why you left your old one.
Related: VAWA Immigration Attorney