BEFORE HIRING AN ATTORNEY
Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of U.S. law. No one person, including lawyer, can know all. We believe that you are deserved to make an informed decision before hiring an attorney to help you.
Your decision in selecting your immigration attorney can be to get a green card within a year or be forced to leave the United States. If you are intending to hire a lawyer, following resources are very helpful for you to make a decision before you choose a lawyer:
How do you choose a lawyer?
1. Does the lawyer have experience with this kind of problem?
2. Does the lawyer charge for an initial interview? If so, what is the charge? Most lawyers have a fee for a first office visit that is within the financial means of most people. This visit does not obligate you to hire the lawyer.
3. Does the lawyer provide a written agreement describing fees and services provided for the fees?
4. Does the lawyer specialize and/or experience in your type of problem?
5. Does the lawyer or one of his/her associates be handling your case?
6. Does the lawyer regularly contact you about your case’s status?
7. Will you be able to make the final decision on your case?
Further information is followed if you are interested.
When should you need to see a lawyer?
1. You are arrested or accused of a crime;
2. A lawsuit is brought against you;
3. You are unable to resolve issues with a government agency, such as tax, immigration, social security, workers compensation or veteran’s or pension benefits;
4. Someone does not satisfactorily perform work or serves or fails to honor guarantees or warranties. These service providers could include professionals such as lawyers, accountants and doctors, as well as others; and
5. Someone refuses to pay you funds to which you believe you are entitled, or tries to collect funds you believe you don’t owe.
There are several manners in choosing a lawyer to represent you:
1. Attorney public records - Check an attorney's official bar membership record (address, phone number, discipline history, etc.) on the State Bar's Web site. It is important, before hiring any lawyer, to contact the lawyer disciplinary agency in the state where the lawyer maintains a business address to confirm that the individual is in good standing as a member of the bar.
2. Recommendations — Friends, co-workers, employers and even other lawyers can often offer recommendations. Business people or professionals such as bankers, ministers, doctors, social workers and teachers are also good sources.
3. Certified lawyer referral services — Look in the Yellow Pages of the local telephone directory for a list of State Bar-certified lawyer referral services. In addition, check the listings at the beginning of the “Attorneys” listings, or contact the local bar association. A list of certified lawyer referral services can be found on the State Bar's Web site.
4. Certified Legal Specialists — The State Bar maintains a list of attorneys who are certified specialists in particular areas of law. A list of Certified Legal Specialists can be found on the State Bar's Web site.
After attorney-client relationship established which usually occurs when you sign a retainer agreement and pay a certain amount of attorney, you should have the rights as client.
1. You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in your lawyer’s office.
2. You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to withdraw from the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
3. You are entitled to your lawyer’s independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
4. You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain at the outset how the fee will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory. In the event of a fee dispute, you may have the right to seek arbitration; your attorney will provide you with the necessary information regarding arbitration in the event of a fee dispute, or upon your request.
5. You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed in a prompt manner and to have your telephone calls returned promptly.
6. You are entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter.
7. You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, including whether or not to settle your matter (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
8. You have the right to privacy in your dealings with your lawyer and to have your secrets and confidences preserved to the extent permitted by law.
9. You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the Code of Professional Responsibility.
10. You may not be refused representation on the basis of race, creed, color, age, religion, sex, sexual orientation, national origin or disability.
Reciprocal trust, courtesy and respect are the hallmarks of the attorney-client relationship. Within that relationship, the client looks to the attorney for expertise, education, sound judgment, protection, advocacy and representation. These expectations can be achieved only if the client fulfills the following responsibilities:
1. The client is expected to treat the lawyer and the lawyer's staff with courtesy and consideration.
2. The client's relationship with the lawyer must be one of complete candor and the lawyer must be apprised of all facts or circumstances of the matter being handled by the lawyer even if the client believes that those facts may be detrimental to the client's cause or unflattering to the client.
3. The client must honor the fee arrangement as agreed to with the lawyer, in accordance with law.
4. All bills for services rendered which are tendered to the client pursuant to the agreed upon fee arrangement should be paid promptly.
5. The client may withdraw from the attorney-client relationship, subject to financial commitments under the agreed to fee arrangement, and, in certain circumstances, subject to court approval.
6. Although the client should expect that his or her correspondence, telephone calls and other communications will be answered within a reasonable time frame, the client should recognize that the lawyer has other clients equally demanding of the lawyer's time and attention.
7. The client should maintain contact with the lawyer, promptly notify the lawyer of any change in telephone number or address and respond promptly to a request by the lawyer for information and cooperation.
8. The client must realize that the lawyer need respect only legitimate objectives of the client and that the lawyer will not advocate or propose positions which are unprofessional or contrary to law or the Lawyer's Code of Professional responsibility.
9. The lawyer may be unable to accept a case if the lawyer has previous professional commitments which will result in inadequate time being available for the proper representation of a new client.
10. A lawyer is under no obligation to accept a client if the lawyer determines that the cause of the client is without merit, a conflict of interest would exist or that a suitable working relationship with the client is not likely.
Sources: American Bar Association, State Bar of Texas, State Bar of California, and New York State Bar Association.