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How to Choose an Immigration Lawyer

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Carmen Cornejo
Written by Carmen Cornejo

Many immigrants are reluctant to contract the services of an immigration lawyer and only do so if they are in imminent danger of deportation.

However, a good lawyer is worth every single dollar paid for his or her services, and may save a person from detention and deportation.

On the other hand, a bad lawyer (or worse, a fraudulent “notario” posing as a lawyer) can get people in trouble with USCIS (United States Citizen and Immigration Services), take their hard-earned money, and ruin the opportunities they may have for staying in the U.S.

An immigration lawyer in the USA is a professional who holds a Juris Doctor degree and has specialized in immigration law. This individual has passed a rigorous bar exam, has been accepted as a member of the bar association of his or her state, and remains in good standing with the bar association.

Contracting the services of a good lawyer is a real task that requires some knowledge.

Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund is making this task a little bit easier by creating this guide to help you select a professional who can give you good service.

Here are our recommendations:

Take your time. If your immigration situation can be compromised at any point, or more bluntly, unless you are a U.S. Citizen, you should take your time researching and seeking a good immigration attorney before you face a deportation threat. It is easier and less risky if you take time to research and compare professionals’ credentials and services, instead of hiring somebody from a jail or from an immigration detention center.

Be aware of scam artists. You probably are familiar with the term Notario. Notarios in Latin-American countries are lawyers, but this is not the case in the United States. Some scam artist take advantage of this situation and call themselves “Notarios” but lack the qualifications to do immigration law-related work. Do not be a victim of immigration fraud.

Check the person’s credentials before giving money to the person you are contracting.

Seek references, but with caution. Ask family and friends about good lawyers. However, be cautious because some lawyers pay people to recommend their services. Seek uncompromising advice. You may also use this Immigration Lawyer referral site from the American Immigration Lawyer Association (AILA) to get names of immigration lawyers in your area.

Verify the lawyer’s credentials. The best way to ensure a person is qualified to handle an immigration case is to check his or her name on your state’s Bar Association of lawyers. Here is the link for the Arizona Bar Association where you can input the name of a lawyer on the feature “Find a Lawyer” and get specific information about his or her practice, including if this person has been disciplined for misconduct.

Interview a handful of lawyers. Before selecting a lawyer, talk to a few of them. Favor the lawyer who describes a realistic scenario of your personal situation, including risks and opportunities. Be aware that the lawyers may charge for the interview. Check costs in advance.

Ask questions. Be prepared to ask questions not only regarding your case, but also about payment for services, the communication schedule with your attorney or paralegals associated with the firm, etc. Do not be afraid to ask questions about their professional expertise.

With time, resources and knowledge on your side, you are likely to make an educated decision while looking for the right professional for your case.