If you are looking to obtain a work visa, green card or citizenship, you will most likely be working with a lawyer. If you are working with a lawyer for the first time, there may be a lot of aspects of the process that are overwhelming or confusing to you. There is no doubt that you need to pick the best lawyer for your immigration needs, but you also need to know how to work with them in order to get the best results.
Take Referrals, But with A Grain of Salt
It goes without saying that getting referrals is the easiest way to hire quality professionals you can trust. Word of mouth is essential in most industries, especially the legal field where the competence of a lawyer can change your life for the better or worse. It is definitely worth interviewing all the lawyers who are referred to you by family and friends, but don’t take referrals as 100% guarantee of quality. I have heard of many horror stories of people trusting referred professionals only to get disappointed or even devastated by the results. I once worked with a lawyer who was referred to me and ended up finding lots of mistakes in the documents he prepared for me.
Do your own research whether you have referrals or not. Perform basic Google search, background checks and review their ratings if there is any. Also interview lawyers who are not referred to you but have excellent ratings online. Even though online ratings are not 100% trustworthy, you can get a good glimpse into the action behind close doors. If there are consistent negative ratings, you have good reasons to doubt the credibility and competence of that lawyer.
In terms of consultation fees, I tend to work with lawyers who don’t charge a consultation fee. Lawyers obviously have good reasons to charge a fee to protect their time, but from a client’s perspective, it could be cost-prohibitive if they want to interview more than a few lawyers.
Be Honest About All of Your Information
If you have watched any kind of legal drama, you probably have come across scenes where angry lawyers lashed out at their clients who lied about their information. It is a waste of time for the attorney who worked hard to win the case only to find out that some information was misrepresented. It is also a waste of the client’s time because you would need to start over again.
Do yourself a favor and be completely honest about your information. It is not a place to avoid judgment if you have compromising information because your lawyer needs to know everything in order to help you.
Point Out Problems Promptly
When your lawyers start to prepare documents for you, it may take a couple of months to a couple of years depending on the nature of your case. Request a periodical update to check in on the progress. Do a thorough review of their work and point out problems as early as possible. When I first started working with lawyers, I made the mistake of not pointing out problems until it is too late. After several failed attempts at contacting the lawyer directly, I had to go to the head of the law firm to report the error-ridden work he has been providing me. By that time, the deadline of submission was approaching and my case needed to be rushed by another lawyer. Luckily, I was able to get a positive result but this whole drama could have been avoided if I had reported problems early on.
Take Advantage of Legal Plans
A lot of global organizations provide legal benefits to their employees. Hyatt Legal Plan is one of the popular plans that provide free legal services to employees who contribute a small monthly fee from their paycheck. If you have frequent legal needs, you will save thousands in cost. Even if you don’t have any immediate needs now, it is a good investment to prepare for the future. You can use legal services for free for many areas, such as buying a home, getting immigration, traffic tickets, document reviews, divorce, estate planning and many more.
Don’t Rely on Lawyers to be Accurate
After going through law school and passing the bar, all lawyers are experts at what they do and have impeccable attention at details, right? Not so much. Just like any other profession, the legal field has lawyers with mixed level of competence. Not every lawyer pays extreme attention to details – after all, you are just another client among the many they have. If they lose your case, they will still get a portion of the fee for the work they have done and the outcome of your case does not impact their personal life. Why would they give 100% of their attention to make sure all the details are correct?
While good lawyers will strive to be as accurate as possible, you cannot rely on them to do so. It is your case that will potentially change your life – you will have to be the fact-checker. Whenever you review the progress of your case, make sure to triple check that everything is correct. When it’s time to submit documents to the government, ask for a full scan of case documents to do a final check on your own. Treat this like your life depends on it. I once found more than 40 errors in a file my lawyer prepared. As a result, I had to sit down for three hours to type up my comments. Imagine if I didn’t check the final file before it got submitted to the government – my case outcome would have been very different.
Don’t Regard Company Lawyers as Your Own
If you are on certain categories of visa, such as the H1B visa, you have to remember that the lawyers who represented your case are employed by your company, not yourself. They cannot advise you on any legal issues without informing the company what you discussed with them. If you have any questions, make sure to think twice before contacting your company’s immigration lawyer. Do not disclose information that may negatively impact you to your company lawyer.
Getting legal advice from outside attorneys is the best way to go. You can also ask questions anonymously on websites such as avvo.com. Answers are usually posted within a few hours, but most layers on the platform would recommend you doing an in-person consultation. Regardless, it is still a good way to get some initial ideas on your situation before diving deeper to solve your issues.