The difference between choosing the right immigration attorney vs. the wrong one is significant, and will have long-term implications for you and your family. Obviously, your goal is to make a smart and safe decision — and steer clear of a partnership that may ultimately prove to be disappointing, excessively and unnecessarily costly, and stressful.
To help you head in the right direction — and make the correct choice — here are 5 critical questions to ask any prospective immigration attorney during your initial consultation.
1. How long have they been practicing immigration law?
Just as doctors, engineers and other professionals have varying degrees of experience — some are emerging in the field, while others are established — immigration lawyers have proficiency and knowledge.
Simply put: when it comes to choosing the right immigration attorney, there is no substitute for experience. Obviously, this includes knowing the law; especially in light of recent rulings and opinions. Less obviously, it includes and in-depth understanding of the application process for various petitions (e.g. USCIS Visa categories).
2. What is their knowledge and experience working on cases like yours?
In a sense, this is an extension of the first question, but it is so important that it warrants its own spot on the list. While a prospective immigration attorney must (as noted above) have in-depth experience in the field, he or she should also have knowledge that relates to your specific case.
For example, whether you are an employer looking to hire an alien worker, or you are an individual who wants to live and work in the U.S. (and possibly petition to have family members join you), you want to ensure that your immigration attorney knows the specific process and protocol inside and out.
3. Will you be personally working on my case?
It is fine — and often necessary — for the immigration attorney you choose to take a team-based approach to your case, which means that additional skilled staff members (e.g. researchers, etc.) will also be working on your behalf.
However, what is NOT fine — and what you should ensure does not happen — is that your immigration attorney essentially “farms out” your case to colleagues, and does provide both leadership and direct hands-on professional services. It is crucial that your immigration attorney is involved in your case, and is therefore accountable for providing you with agreed upon services in a timely and appropriate manner.
4. Can you give me an estimate of the cost involved?
This question has a few important aspects that need to be unpacked. The first is that immigration law issues are complex, and as such cannot be “sold” as commodities — i.e. there is no standard fixed price. This is also because a key factor in the length and complexity of your case will be determined by the government.
With this being said, you have every right to receive a realistic estimate of costs, based on a prospective immigration attorney’s experience working on similar cases (again, keep in mind that the word “similar” is used here — not “exactly the same,” since there is no such thing in the legal world as every case is different to some degree).
5. How will we communicate and what can I expect our interaction to be like?
Effective and efficient communication with your immigration attorney is not just important: it is vital. No, this does not mean you will have daily teleconferences lasting several hours. But it certainly does mean that you will receive regular updates (often by email so you have a reference and can review at a time that is convenient to you), and that you are completely up-to-date on all relevant aspects of your case or petition, including the stage it is in.
And of course, all interaction should be professional, respectful, and conveyed in a manner that helps you understand the situation. For example, your immigration attorney should clearly and fully explain various legal terms and processes, and patiently answer your questions. You should never feel intimidated, or that you are “just a file.” You are a human being and immigration matters are, to a greater or lesser extent, life-changing. Your immigration attorney must respect this. If not, then frankly speaking, they are in the wrong field. Immigration law is about people, not about things.
At Pollak PLLC, we have in-depth experience in immigration law covering a full range of cases and petitions for employers, entrepreneurs and workers (and their family members). Our principal Karen-Lee Pollak personally leads and works on each case, and ensures that all communication is effective, efficient and client-focused. To learn more, schedule your initial consultation today. There is no cost or obligation.
Karen-Lee Pollak is the Managing Attorney at Pollak PLLC located in Dallas, Texas. She is a frequent speaker, author and blogger on immigration issues. She can be reached at karenlp@pollakimmigration