Some visa immigration lawyers offer a free consultation to meet, become acquainted and discuss ways in which their associates can assist with visa and immigration issues. The purpose of an initial visit is for you and the attorney to determine if representation makes sense, and for you to decide if this attorney is right for you.
Immigration issues are currently a topic of considerable political debate. Foreign citizens with families who are currently in the United States or are applying to come to the United States for work should consult with a proven and experienced visa immigration lawyer to understand rights and procedures.
How to Find the Right Lawyer: 10 Questions to Ask When Meeting With Visa Immigration Lawyers
In an initial consultation, you may ask questions to determine if you can work together while the attorney can make a judgment whether your case is actionable.
Before committing to move forward with a particular visa immigration lawyer, you should make a list of questions that should help you to establish the appropriate level of comfort to go forward. Your questions should revolve around things like whether the lawyer you’re talking to:
- Focuses specifically on immigration cases
- Belongs to professional organizations related to immigration
- Has a track record of honesty and looking out for his or her clients
- Has experience in situations like yours
- Will have time to take on your case
Here’s a quick look at ten questions you should ask every immigration attorney you speak with about your case.
1. Do You Specialize in Visas and Family Immigration Law?
Many law firms include immigration law as only one part of a broader portfolio of specialties. If immigration law is not the attorney’s primary focus, changing laws and accelerated enforcement may catch him or her off guard. Knowledge and experience are the best defense, and dedicated visa immigration lawyers understand how to manage unique situations. The fact is that immigration law changes quickly – and new rules are implemented all the time. That means when a lawyer focuses on divorce, for example, he or she is more familiar with those aspects of law than with immigration law; that may not be good for your case.
2. Are You a Member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association?
Membership in the American Immigration Lawyers Association, or AILA, is an endorsement of the attorney’s commitment to immigration law. It shows that the lawyer you’re working with demonstrates a desire to staying abreast of new developments and best practices.
Knowledge of successful practices may be more important than ever as many states, most notably Texas, are passing legislation for stricter requirements and tougher enforcement. While attorneys do not have to be members of AILA, think of it this way: Would you rather your child’s geography teacher stopped learning in 1990, before the global map changed as much as it has today, or would you rather that he or she was up-to-date on new countries and changing borders?
3. Have You Ever Been Reprimanded or Disciplined for Dishonesty?
The question is a great – and almost unheard-of – question to ask a lawyer. If an attorney has been disciplined for unscrupulous behavior in the past, you may want to look elsewhere. It’s always okay to check on an attorney’s disciplinary record; in fact, you should. Overzealous or dishonest behavior has no place in the court system; the worst part is that if an attorney does something that deserves reprimand or discipline while working for you, it can harm your case.
Some attorneys who have been reprimanded in the past learn from their mistakes and go on to provide excellent representation, but the fact is that if an attorney has done something unethical in the past, you’re under no obligation to believe that he or she won’t do it again.
4. How Many Cases Have You Handled That Are Similar to Mine? What Kinds of Outcomes Do You Get for Your Clients?
Experienced visa immigration lawyers or their associates have likely handled cases like yours. Asking about the lawyer’s track record is a reasonable request. Most importantly, the lawyer can describe the circumstances and the strategy used to achieve a favorable result, while explaining how the same approach could work for you. A good attorney will be happy to tell you about favorable outcomes, whether you’re asking about citizenship and naturalization, deportation, immigration appeals or visas.
5. How Long Have You Practiced Immigration Law?
The adage that there is no substitute for experience is as true in immigration law as it is elsewhere. Knowing how immigration courts operate, understanding law enforcement, or even having gained the respect of the officials involved can put your case in a more favorable light. Attorneys who are familiar with court policies and procedures can navigate the system more easily than those who don’t – and it never hurts to work with a lawyer who has worked with immigration cases long enough to have earned a name for him- or herself.
6. What’s the Best Strategy for My Case?
After you have described your circumstances and shared your objectives, the visa immigration lawyer should propose a plan of action. The plan should include a timeline and defined deliverables. When you explain your case to an attorney, he or she will most likely have a good idea about what to do from the start – and after a good conversation, the attorney you’re working with will fine-tune a strategy that gets you the best possible outcome.
7. What Are My Chances of Success?
Experienced visa immigration lawyers should have an idea about whether they can help. He or she should be realistic and honest about solving the problem. Integrity is important (especially because some attorneys accept cases and fees even when they believe there is no chance for success), and you want to work with an attorney who believes in what you’re trying to accomplish.
8. Do You Have Time for My Case Right Now?
Qualified immigration lawyers can be very busy. A too-heavy case load can mean your case will not get the level of attention it deserves. The best solution is not to delay the start and ask the lawyer to present a timeline for execution and completion. The logical follow-up question will be, “When would you start to work on my case?” The bottom line is that your case is important, and you deserve to work with an attorney who has time to devote to getting you the best possible outcome.
9. How Much Will it Cost for You to Represent Me?
Before your attorney can start working on your case, you’ll need to hammer out the financial details. You’ll want to know:
- What kind of retainer fee you’ll need to pay
- How much the attorney charges per hour
- How often the attorney will bill you
Related: Immigration Fees Explained
10. Will We Enter Into a Written Contract?
A formal written contract is essential to ensure that both the immigration lawyer and the client are aware of the expectations and responsibilities. You can expect to enter into a written contract with the attorney you choose, and you’ll both be expected to hold up your end of the bargain.