If you decided to hire an immigration lawyer to get help in asylum process or to file any other request with USCIS to get an immigration benefit, you need to know if the immigration lawyer of your choice is a good choice.
During your first meeting with an immigration lawyer, you should ask him or her a few questions.
How long have you been practicing the immigration law?
The answer should be “More than a year.” Admittedly, the longer a lawyer works on immigration cases, the more experienced they’re and the more money they ask for the legal services.
Still, money should not be the decisive factor. It may not be a good idea to ask an inexperienced lawyer to help: “Theory and practice are the same in theory, but not in practice”. Just knowing the immigration law isn’t always helpful: a lawyer should also have experience how to behave in various kind of proceedings and know the judge who will handle the case. Simply put, it’s best to have an immigration lawyer who already made errors in their career than to have a lawyer who will make errors during your case.
Are you a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)?
This is a very important question to ask because AILA offers its members – immigration lawyers – various benefits. In particular, the association organizes conferences, practice assistance, mentorship programs, and create many other opportunities for lawyers to improve their skills.
Thus, if your immigration lawyer is a member or AILA, then they are more likely to be an expert.
Does your practice of law limit to immigration? What percentage of your practice concerns immigration?
Immigration law in the US can be insanely complicated, so if a lawyer pays only a small amount of their attention to immigration cases, they might not have enough experience and knowledge to help you. The rule of thumb is that your lawyer of choice should predominantly work on immigration cases. That is, more than 50% of their practice should be immigration.
Will you provide a written fee agreement?
It’s highly important to sign an agreement with a lawyer so that you don’t pay excessive amounts of money. While some lawyers ask a flat fee to cover specific services, others may ask to pay per hour for every consultation. Read the agreement carefully and ask for clarification if something isn’t clear.
What is my immigration status? What process will you initiate?
You might know your immigration status, but after a talk with you, the lawyer must clarify the specificity of your status. Additionally, the lawyer must know how they’ll organize the process to help you get an immigration benefit.
Can you provide any references or recommendations?
If your immigration lawyer have recommendations or references from other people, this can be a proof of their competence.
How much time it takes for you to respond to requests or messages from your clients?
Depending on the immigration case, it may be necessary to react immediately to any law changes or status changes. If your lawyer can’t answer in a day or two, it may have an negative impact on your case.