If you conduct a reasonable amount of due diligence — such as by reading reviews and testimonials, and of course having a frank and open discussion prior to agreeing to an engagement — then you will most likely have a productive and effective partnership with your chosen immigration attorney.
However, just like any other professional field (such as medicine), there is the possibility that you may have a bad experience. While this is certainly not the norm, it does indeed happen on occasion. If so, then here is some practical advice and guidance:
1. Try to resolve the problem with your immigration attorney.
It is in your best interest to escalate complaints directly to your immigration attorney; and ideally, in a proactive manner so that the situation can be resolved, and the relationship can be put back on-track.
For example, you may feel that you are not getting responsive communication, or that items listed on an invoice do not align with your expectations. If so, then politely and firmly put your concerns in writing, and where possibly reference dates (e.g. “I called you twice with an urgent question on May 14 and did not hear back from you until May 21”) or amounts (e.g. “At our initial consultation I was told there would be no additional administrative fees, but they appear on invoice #1523 in the amount of $400”).
You can then follow-up with a conversation that, again ideally, will clarify and misunderstandings, and recalibrate the relationship going forward.
2. File a formal complaint.
Each state has an agency that is responsible for licensing and discipling attorneys, and as such you can file a formal complaint. However, keep in mind that these agencies give priority to relatively egregious issues, such as when an attorney allegedly fails to show up in court, billed for work that was not performed, falsified documents (i.e. fraudulent signatures, back-dating invoices, etc.), and so on. If your complaint is not considered severe, then it will likely take the agency in your respective state several months to move forward.
3. Sue for Malpractice
If you take the rather drastic, expensive and risky — but sometimes necessary — of suing your attorney for malpractice, then keep in mind you will need to demonstrate that the neglect you allege caused financial damage. It is not enough to claim that your attorney was incompetent or careless. It is also not viable (or reasonable) to sue your immigration attorney if you did not get the outcome that you wanted. Ultimately, immigration-related decision are 100 percent in control of the U.S. government (USCIS, DHS, DoL, DoJ, State Department, etc.).
To learn more about choosing the right immigration attorney — so that it is very unlikely that any of the above will be necessary — contact the Pollak PLLC team today. We will provide you with clear and accurate information. We are here to help!
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