6 Tips on How to Choose the Best US Immigration Lawyer for your Case
June 28, 2010 by Immigration Law Attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq.
If you have ever done a google search for an immigration lawyer or similar category in or near your area, you know that there are many lawyers that handle the same areas of law. From first appearance, they all seem to be equally qualified. After all, they each have a nice picture with a new suit on, their websites look professional, and they all state that they are great at what they do.
So how do you make the most important decision that will affect the outcome of your immigration case? No doubt about it - immigration is important because it impacts not just where you live but also now whether you can even drive or have a state ID! Never mind the impact it has on the types of jobs you qualify for when you lack employment authorization….And regardless of what some may say, your choice of immigration lawyer can greatly affect the outcome of your case.
So to help you make the most important decision correctly, here are 6 tips on how to make the right choice when choosing an immigration lawyer.
1. Avoid Just listening to what the immigration lawyer says and Instead check out his or her educational history and other factors that affect that immigration lawyer's professional qualifications
Because most consumers cannot tell the difference between lawyers once they graduate, the hidden factors often make lawyers look equal in their skill. However, all immigration attorneys are NOT created equal. Some are better than others regardless of whether it is politically correct to say that or not.
How can you tell the best from the average immigration lawyer? You must first look at their education. Specifically, you need to find out when comparing lawyers which law school he or she graduated from and whether they had any special accomplishments in law school. Many lawyers reading this article will strongly disagree. The truth, however, is that some schools are “top tiered” law schools while other law schools have minimal requirements for entry into their programs. Some law schools are private and require the lowest scores to enter their schools, and yet, their students graduate as LAWYERS!
This is a big deal, because a lawyer's most important job is to be able to read and ANALYZE and APPLY laws to your specific case and issues. If that lawyer barely graduated from a low level law school, then he or she cannot compete with the level of competence you can find from a lawyer who graduated from a top-tier law school.
The top-tier law schools only choose the best students. A telling example to ask yourself whether this is correct or not is to think about the following fun scenario. You just won the lottery (!) and now you need a financial advisor to handle your millions of dollars for you. Who would you choose: 1. the advisor who barely graduated from college and has a poor track record even though he tells you he to trust him or 2. the advisor who is highly educated from a top-tier school who has the background that allows him to compete well in the market and make the right decisions based on his level of knowledge? The difference is that you would the advisor who can apply his high level of knowledge correctly to your situation, right?
It is the same in choosing a lawyer.You can research the top tier law schools online to see where the attorney's school ranks. In the state of Florida, there is only one top-tier law school and that school is the University of Florida Levin College of Law.
2. Speaking of Looking at a Lawyer's Educational Background, you then need to determine the Immigration lawyer's years of experience
So it is good if the US immigration law attorney you are choosing has a law degree from a top-tier law school, but that alone is not enough. The next factor is that you want an EXPERIENCED immigration attorney. Why, you may ask? Because the experienced immigration attorney not only knows the complex and detailed immigration regulations, that immigration attorney also knows exactly how USCIS or how another governmental agency will handle your case. In fact, that immigration lawyer will also know how long it will take that governmental agency to complete your case and can even provide you with a percentage of your chance of success.
So how much experience are we talking about here? Definitely more than 3 to four years, as when you are dealing with immigration governmental agencies, you want an attorney that knows how to handle the expected and the UNEXPECTED with ease. For example, let us say that you have a fairly standard immigration case and your attorney explained to you that your case has a high chance of success, he has handled many of these cases before, etc.
What happens when USCIS issues a 3 page single spaced request for evidence (called RFE) that asks so much detailed information you do not understand what USCIS is up to? You at that moment will need your lawyer to have seen this RFE before for another client and to know exactly how to exactly respond so that USCIS will be happy. This cannot be accomplished if the attorney is lacking in experience...
Another reason why experience is so important? An example is a market research analyst position for an H-1B work visa. The Texas Service Center versus the Vermont Service Center each has different ways of handling a case like this, with sometimes conflicting outcomes. Another example is an investor visa (E-2) being filed with a service center versus a U.S. Embassy. Not only are there different requirements for approval by each, but they each apply the same law supposedly! So an experienced attorney can explain how the U.S. Embassy or the USCIS service center will handle your investor visa case and which is a better place to file your case, the exact documents needed to remedy any negative issues in your case, etc.
In my own immigration law office of Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A., I often have clients ask me whether I have handled a case like theirs before. Since some immigration lawyers may say yes when they should say no in truth, the best way to tell whether the attorney has seen a case like yours before is to see how many years they have practiced only immigration law. The more years they have practiced only immigration law, the more cases like yours they have seen and handled.
As a side note, you also want to check that attorney's file in the state bar he or she is licensed to make sure he or she has not been disciplined in the past. In Florida, you would want to search the website for the Florida Bar, which you can easily find online.
You also want to check any online reviews made for that immigration lawyer, as these reviews are made by clients who have actually personally dealt with that attorney. Any favorable recommendations should be considered and any unfavorable recommendations should be given more weight even more than the positive reviews.
3. If an Immigration Lawyer Guarantees your case, then you know you have already heard the first lie from that lawyer
Not to be critical, but any lawyer who can "guarantee" your case will be approved needs to be viewed with suspicion. First of all, what exactly is that lawyer guaranteeing? No lawyer can guarantee any approval on your case, since that lawyer is a private entity and has no connections legal or otherwise that will affect the USCIS officer's ability to be the main decision-maker on your case. You should RUN when you hear a guarantee and instead look for the smart, experienced immigration attorney who can give you an honest percentage for your chance of success on your case.
4. If an immigration Lawyer meets the top 3 things, then the next step is to make sure you LIKE the immigration attorney as a human being
Why is this subjective tip listed here, when all the above are pointing to hardcore experience requirements, graduating from a top law school, etc.? Because while some immigration matters are resolved only through a paper filing, other immigration cases require an interview at the local USCIS office. Whenever there is an interview at a local USCIS office, i.e. like for a marriage green card or citizenship case, you want to make sure your attorney is likeable. If you like the attorney, then hopefully that attorney is also liked and respected at that local USCIS office. If the USCIS officer likes your attorney, then that officer will be inclined to negotiate with your attorney, to your benefit.
Also, if you like the immigration attorney, it is maybe because that attorney is showing concern for you and your case. That immigration attorney's concern for you, as well as the other tips mentioned above will together increase the chances that you are choosing the correct attorney for your immigration matter.
5. Make Sure the Immigration Attorney, after a discussion of your case, discusses a Flat Fee arrangement for your case
The time has come for us to bring up the topic of money. One of the issues to consider here is to look out for hidden fees. Be sure that the attorney discusses a flat fee with you for your specific case. Most reputable attorneys will also have a contract for you. The contract is in place to protect you as well as the attorney. Be sure to check in the contract which services are being handled for the price quoted. Many immigration lawyers will only include filing your case and the interview, but they include no services after that.
You want to make sure that the attorney will handle your case from start to finish, in case there is a problem that is not resolved at the time of interview or there is a delay and you need status check, etc. When comparing prices with other lawyers, make sure you compare fairly as well, i.e. service to service not just price quoted.
6. Finally make sure the Immigration Lawyer you choose practices ONLY 100% Immigration Law
At the my immigration law office of Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A., we practice 100% Immigration Law. Period. This is critical because immigration law in general literally changes daily (check out our blog at Jacksonville Immigration Attorney Blog and you will see!), so you need an immigration lawyer that is immersed in Immigration Law on a full-time basis to ensure that he or she is following the most up-to-date procedures for filing your case to ensure success.
If you follow these steps in carefully choosing your immigration lawyer, you will know that you have made the best decision possible with the information you have at hand. Good luck and feel free to contact my Jacksonville immigration law office for further information, should you need immigration help. My information is listed below.
This article on "6 Tips on How to Choose the Best US Immigration Lawyer for Your Case" is written by US Immigration Law Attorney Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. of Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A. Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. has been practicing only US Immigration Law for almost 10 years in Jacksonville, Florida. She graduated from the University of Florida Levin College of Law located in Gainesville, Florida in 2000. She is an immigrant herself, as she came to the US when she was about 7 years from Iraq. Any comments or questions can be emailed to her at firstname.lastname@example.org or you may call her office directly at (904) 448-6646. Lena Korial-Yonan, Esq. accepts and handles cases from all over the US.
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Lena Korial-Yonan, P.A.
9425 Craven Road, Suite 5
Jacksonville, FL 32257
Phone: (904) 448-6646
Facsimile: (904) 448-8221