How to Choose the Right Immigration Attorney
Each year, immigration attorneys provide guidance to thousands across the United States (U.S.). For those seeking to apply for visas or green cards, an attorney can provide expert advice and ensure all required elements of your application are both timely and accurate. And for those facing removal proceedings, an attorney can mean the difference between staying in America and deportation. Expert immigration lawyers deeply understand the law – this is invaluable during immigration court proceedings.
Yet finding an immigration lawyer that you trust can be a complicated and even daunting process. When your right to live and work in the United States may be in jeopardy, legal representation is a necessity. In this article, we review certain steps you should always take when searching for, and ultimately choosing, your own personal attorney.
Talk to Friends & Family
Your loved ones and close friends are often an excellent place to start your search for an immigration attorney. Ask them if they’ve ever needed the help of a lawyer with any immigration issue. If they have, talk to them about their experience and if they’d recommend the law firm that helped with their case or application. Either way, take diligent notes – you can refer to them later. If your discussions with friends and family members leads to a few options right away, start your research with any recommended firms first.
Research Local Law Firms
Whether or not you have some recommended law firms from friends and family, you’ll want to do your own research. The internet is an excellent tool, and you can utilize it to find local immigration firms in your area. Starting with a search engine like Google, you will likely find some viable options in your immediate area. Once you have a list of favorite firms, start to conduct some in-depth research. You want to make sure you’ve fully vetted any firm on your list. Below, we discuss a few points to consider during your research.
In your search, make sure to only consider law firms and lawyers certified by your state’s bar association. Under U.S. law, legal advice and representation can only be provided by an accredited attorney. You should avoid any non-lawyer who promises legal services. Often, these people will call themselves “visa consultants” or “notarios.” Only an immigration lawyer certified by your state’s bar association is properly educated, prepared, and licensed to help you with your legal needs.
It’s critical to consider expertise and experience when choosing an immigration lawyer. When conducting your search, consider how long the law firm has been in business and review their lawyers. Do the lawyers have a history of success? What are their specialties? Does the firm only practice immigration law? If so, you’ll be more likely to work with an industry expert. Experienced lawyers who innately understand the realm of immigration law will be better equipped to protect your rights.
Davis & Associates has served thousands of clients since opening in 2007. The lawyers at our Houston branch have over 30 years of combined professional experience in immigration law. Each day, our attorneys provide expert services to clients throughout Houston. We only practice immigration law and provide legal services in the following areas: business and family immigration, visas and green cards, deportation, and political asylum.
If you are not comfortable writing and speaking in English, it’s essential to consider law firms that offer language services. Ideally, your lawyer will be able to converse with you in your native language. This not only provides comfort, but allows your attorney to fully understand your needs and wishes. Such knowledge and ability is required for a lawyer to successfully guide your case and represent your interests.
It’s important that you understand every aspect of your case. If you cannot speak, read, or write English, prioritize working with someone who can properly communicate with you. That way, you’ll know they understand you every step of the way.
Because any immigration legal issue is likely to require a lot of time, you should consider the location of any firm on your list. Are their offices easily accessible for you and/or your loved ones? Can you reach the office quickly if necessary?
While working with an attorney, you’ll likely spend a lot of time at the law firm. You will have to meet with your lawyer, drop off paperwork, and arrange other aspects of your case. If your law firm is far away, this will lead to a significant amount of time spent traveling. By choosing a firm close to home, you’ll limit the burden of travel, allowing you to spend as much time as possible at home.
Often, online reviews are an excellent way to gauge the quality of a business’s services. Sometimes, reviews or testimonials will be available on a firm’s website. Always read these, but also visit their social media pages (Facebook, Twitter) to see what clients have to say. Additionally, Google and Yelp may also have reviews for law firms written by customers. Make detailed notes about the reviews to use later. Carefully consider both positive and negative reviews to see if any trends exist in services.
Schedule a Consultation
Once you have your final list in hand, you’re ready to start contacting firms. Most reputable law firms will allow you to schedule a free initial consultation. These short appointments typically allow you to meet with one of the firm’s attorneys and discuss your case or application. During the consultation, you’ll have the opportunity to ask the attorney questions, as well as learn more about the firm’s unique offerings. Below, we describe what you should do to prepare for your consultation and what you can expect from the meeting.
Bring Your Case Materials
You should prepare any documentation, records, or other significant information and bring it with you to your attorney consultation. Any information that you believe is relevant for your case should be included. For example, bring with you any available court documents, court date information, forms, letters, and identification. Additionally, if applicable bring any prior rulings or decisions with you to your appointment.
Ideally, organize the information to make your first meeting as efficient as possible. Place documents in a folder or tabbed binder. Your assigned attorney will review the information with you and ask questions. When an attorney can review all of your case information, they can better understand your case and outline your available options.
Prepare a list of questions before you meet with your potential immigration lawyer. By doing this, you can ensure that you’ll leave your appointment with the knowledge you need to make an informed decision. Ideally, bring your question list with you to your consultation. That way, you can make sure you don’t forget any question you feel is important. Below, we’ve included some questions that you should ask your attorney during your initial appointment.
You can ask your attorney:
- Do you have any legal specialties?
- Do you only practice immigration law?
- How long have you been practicing immigration law?
- Are you registered with the state’s bar association?
- If I choose this law firm, how much access will I have to you?
- How much can I expect your services to cost? (Remember, this will likely be an estimate.)
- Do you have any previous clients who might speak with me?
- What potential outcomes could I expect?
- Do you see any challenges that might arise during my case/application?
During your meeting, remember to take detailed notes. This way, you can refer back to them when considering each law firm. Notes will allow you to remember specific details or aspects of your consultation that may have stood out to you. Further, you can also bring a trusted family member or close friend with you to your appointment. This option would allow you to concentrate fully on your conversation and the details of your case while your companion takes notes.
Beware of Guarantees or Promises
While experienced immigration lawyers may be able to tell you a likely outcome of your case or map out many possibilities, beware of anyone who makes promises. No one can predict the specific outcome of any case or application, even an expert. The ultimate outcome of any immigration case depend upon the final decision of the judge or government agency making your decision. Do not work with anyone who guarantees success or promises specific outcomes.
Cost of Services
During your consultation, your lawyer will likely provide an estimate for cost of services. Remember, an experienced immigration attorney is likely to cost more than other avenues. Despite this, the knowledge and counsel provided by experts is well worth the additional cost. When meeting with multiple attorneys at different firms, keep track of estimated costs.
Consider Your Options & Make a Final Decision
Eventually, it will be time to make a final decision and choose your immigration attorney. Ideally, your preparation and careful research will ensure you choose the law firm best for you and your individual needs. Remember to refer to any detailed notes you took during your initial research, consultation appointment, or discussions with references. Carefully weighing your options will lead you to the immigration attorney right for you!
Again, consider the following when choosing your immigration attorney:
- How close is their office to your home?
- Will you have access to your lawyer if you need them urgently?
- How much will their legal services cost?
- What are the potential outcomes of your case?
- If necessary, do they speak your native language?
- Are they certified by your state’s bar association?
- How many years have they been practicing immigration law?
- What is their legal specialty?
Work with Davis & Associates
It can be daunting to find an immigration attorney you trust. Whether you face removal proceedings, seek a visa or green card, or wish to apply for asylum, the guidance of an expert immigration lawyer is essential. Remember, avoid heartbreak and setbacks by only working with professionals accredited by your state’s bar association. Avoid “visa consultants” or “notarios,” as well as any person who guarantees a specific outcome or decision.
If your right to live and work in the United States is in jeopardy, you need an immigration attorney. The Davis & Associates team provides top-level immigration law services to clients in the Houston area. We work each day to represent clients with compassion and expertise. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation. You can sit down with one of our experts and discuss your questions, concerns, or case details. Remember – you aren’t alone. And we can help.