By Attorney Vaman Kidambi
Let me start out by stating that the first thing you should do before hiring an immigration attorney is to check the attorney’s standing with the local Bar Association. This information is readily available online. For instance, attorneys admitted in New York State can be found on the New York State Unified Court System website under “Attorney Search”. I also recommend asking friends and peers for a referral. There is nothing like a firsthand opinion of the Attorney you plan to hire from someone who has already used his/her services. Finally, try emailing, or calling the Law Firm to see how responsive they are and whether you feel comfortable relying on them for you immigration needs. After all, depending on the case, the process could take anywhere from twelve months to twelve years!
The American Immigration Lawyers Association has the following important pointers when hiring an Immigration Attorney:
- Be smart! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Don’t believe it if someone tells you about a secret law or claims to have connections or special influence with any agency.
- Never sign an application that contains false information and try to avoid signing blank forms. If you must sign a blank form, make sure you get a copy of the completed form and review it for accuracy before it is filed.
- Always get proof of filing—a copy or government filing receipt—when anything is submitted in your case.
- Insist on a written contract that details all fees and expenses and make sure you receive a receipt, especially if you pay cash. If terms change, get a written explanation.
- Don’t let anyone “find” you a sponsor or spouse to get you a green card: it’s illegal.
Here are some additional considerations and advise about hiring and working with an immigration attorney.
1. Trust Your Attorney
The attorney-client relationship is based on trust. So, rule number one is to find and retain an attorney you can trust. Not everything that we do in immigration is logical. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is a very large federal agency that relies on outside contractors for everything from opening mail, to printing notices, and even processing preliminary paperwork. Oftentimes, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, the attorney may not be able to prevent an “agency error”. When this happens, patience is required in the handling of the matter. A good attorney will guide you through the process based on well-established best practices that the Firm or attorney has developed over the years. Affording the attorney, the benefit of doubt is important and even necessary for your own peace of mind.
2. Social Media Champions
It is important that you don’t base the decision to hire an attorney solely on their social media profiles. Many Law Firms engage outside PR agencies to tout their accomplishments and drum up business. Constantly posting online or having a very active website does not always guarantee results. I can hardly imagine a busy practitioner finding the time to constantly post on social media. Instead, I would rely on blogs and well-written articles in peer-reviewed journals to assess the quality of an Attorney’s work product.
3. Reviews, Reviews, Reviews
Using online reviews to select a Law Firm may not be a bad idea, but it is far from the only consideration. Have you ever tried to decide on the best hotel to stay while on vacation? How many of you use online reviews to decide on the best hotel? So, you know the job is anything but simple. Even the best attorneys may initially end up losing the case. However, the road to success may involve filing subsequent motions and appeals to overcome the initial denial. Eventually, success is based on the final outcome of the case. If relying on online reviews, I suggest looking at how the Law Firm handled a bad review. A prompt, considerate and well-reasoned response shows the character of the Law Firm, and you should weigh this carefully in making your final choice.
4. Flat Fee Arrangements
Like any business, a Law Firm sets its fees based on the complexity and time it takes to complete a case. However, you should know your budget before you engage in discussions with the Law Firm. In immigration, “flat fees” are generally the norm. Flat fees include expenses and provide the client with a final bill that is in keeping with the negotiated fee with no hidden or additional costs. As a best practice, the Law Firm should provide you with an Engagement Letter with a schedule of fees clearly laying out the fees being charged.
5. Experts and So-Called Experts
Many states offer specialization programs that certify lawyers as specialists in certain types of law. Some areas of law, even have their own certification programs. However, this is not the only way to determine if the attorney is an expert at what he or she does. I have been in practice for twenty-five years and handle a very large volume of immigration cases. I have seen situations that sometimes did not come for the first ten or fifteen years of my practice. So, not always, but having an attorney who has been practicing for several years is an advantage.
Kidambi & Associates was founded on the idea of putting service to our clients first…always. We registered “Serving Immigrants, Serving America® with the USPTO (USPTO SERIAL NO. 77392587) believing, it is not enough to simply represent clients, but to strive to uphold the values of selfless service in every single case. We want to be the homing beacon shining and lighting the path along an immigrant’s journey to the United States.
We understand that there is no substitute for success. Please take a moment to look through our website and contact us today to discuss your case and how we can help you achieve the desired result.