A good immigration lawyer should be able to give you an honest and thorough assessment of your case and be able to explain the options available to you based on current law and changes that are in the legislative and judicial pipeline at any given time. The lawyer can then work with you to prepare your case and represent you in front of the administrative agency handling your petition. The lawyer should be able to explain to the government agency why your case meets the requirements of the law.
- At your first meeting, you should give the lawyer the chance to get to know you. Don’t feel compelled right off the bat to blurt out everything you want to tell the lawyer about your legal issues or needs. Many times, a lawyer will want to get some background on you and even shoot the breeze a bit. This opportunity will provide both you and the lawyer with the chance to evaluate each other on an informal basis
- Let the lawyer lead the discussion. You’ll have all sorts of information, but the lawyer will be better able to hone in on the background facts that he or she feels are relevant or important. The more prepared you are with completed questionnaires, documents, diagrams and your own questions, the easier this process will be, and the more you’ll impress the lawyer.
- During your initial consultation, you’ll want to be able to share all relevant information with the lawyer. Even if you don’t end up hiring the lawyer, everything you tell him or her during your meeting is subject to the lawyer-client privilege, so honesty is in your best interest. Let your lawyer decide what is or is not in your favor. It’s much better for the lawyer to know the bad things up front, rather than be surprised later.
- If the lawyer is interested in representing you, you can expect that he or she will go through an educational process with you. You should take the time to make a candid assessment of your situation. Give the lawyer the straight scoop. Unless the lawyer advises you to the contrary, anything you tell him or her in confidence should be subject to the lawyer-client privilege, meaning that the lawyer cannot disclose it to outside third parties without your consent.
- The lawyer may give you alternatives as to what you can do, and you should discuss relevant questions about each option. Look for practical legal advice that in your own mind translates into good sense.
- Depending on how well prepared you are, the lawyer may even be able to give you advice on how to proceed. This could be especially important when time is of the essence.
- Be clear on what is to happen next and then be sure to follow through on whatever you have been asked to do by your new lawyer. The lawyer will insist on cooperation from your end. Be sure to ask the lawyer how he or she would prefer to communicate with you, and then keep in contact regularly with your lawyer.
- There are actually immigration lawyers out there who swear they have never lost a case even after a lengthy career. Be nervous about lawyers who promise success. A lawyer who honestly presents the risks is worth a lot more. Likewise, be very weary of lawyers who claim to have special influence with the government. Also beware of lawyers who speak too negatively of the competition. If the lawyer is worthy, they can stand on their own record rather than tearing down the record of competitors.
- Read the fine print in your engagement letters. Some lawyers load agreements down with so much “legalese” and one-sided provisions that it should give you pause. Consider using a lawyer who provides an agreement that is written in plain English that appears to be even-handed.
- Ask for a copy of a firm brochure and promotional materials that the firm may have. Crosscheck these materials against your other sources and references. Ask to be provided with a copy of the lawyer’s retainer agreement and have it explained to you before you hire a lawyer or law firm. You may end up paying a lot of money to the lawyer you hire, so make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
- Your experience with your immigration lawyer is more than just the result of the lawyer’s experience and competency. A lawyer’s “bedside manner” can mean a lot, so find a lawyer who really seems to care about your case.
- You probably wouldn’t be meeting with the lawyer in the first place if you weren’t ready to hire somebody. Before you hire a lawyer, though, you may want to ask for references. You would want to talk to people who could comment on the lawyer’s skills and trustworthiness. Ask if it is okay to talk to some of the lawyer’s representative clients.
- While you may still change your mind at almost any point, be prepared to proceed forward by bringing a check book and/or a credit card to pay a retainer to the lawyer if he or she asks before proceeding forward. Keep in mind that lawyers cost a lot of money and you will be expected to pay for their services. From the lawyer’s perspective, a client who is unwilling to pay a retainer up front for good legal advice may not be willing to pay for it down the road.
Making yourself an educated consumer of legal services will improve your chance for your case to be managed successfully. That means learning as much as you can about immigration law, so that you can work with your lawyer to achieve the best possible solution for your case.