So, you need to hire an attorney who specializes in immigration law…but how do you know that the attorney that you hire is as knowledgable as they should be in their field? At Nelson and Associates, we work with many clients who come to us after a bad experience with a less than knowledgable attorney who not only didn’t help them with their case but who often made it worse. So today we want to talk a little bit about how you can screen a potential attorney to make sure that they are as knowledgable as they should be before you hire them.
Immigration Law: How Much Does Your Lawyer Actually Know?
The very thought of “vetting” an attorney is overwhelming, after all, they have spent years in school to become an attorney, and who are you to question their qualifications? This is a common feeling among individuals who are looking for a lawyer and it’s this sentiment that often leads to disaster when they end up hiring an attorney who is less than familiar with the law. As a potential client, you have every right to look into your potential attorney’s education and qualifications before hiring them to represent you.
So, where should you start?
What Are You Looking For?
The first qualifications you need to look for are the two requirements set out by the USCIS. In order for an attorney to legally represent you before the USCIS, they must be:
- Eligible to practice law in — and a member in good standing of the bar of the highest court of — any state, possession, territory, commonwealth, or the District of Columbia.
- Not under any order of any court suspending, enjoining, restraining, disbarring, or otherwise restricting him or her in the practice of law.
So where do you begin to find out this information?
Eligibility to Practice Law
This is perhaps the most important qualification for any potential client to research when looking for an attorney. To find out whether an attorney is licensed to practice law in your state, you need to research that lawyer’s name with your State Bar Association. To find your State Bar Association’s website you should use this directory from the American Bar Association. Simply click the state that you are interested in and you will be taken directly to the search page for attorneys within your state. Search your attorney’s name and location and click “search”. From here you will be taken to a list of attorneys that fit your search criteria. For each attorney, you can view their Bar ID number, their name, their current status (active, inactive, deceased), and their judicial district. To view more detailed information about an attorney, you can click the link to the left of their name and view their individual listing. On their individual listing page, you will be able to view their name, address, contact information, their license date, and a status definition – for example, an attorney who is active in North Carolina may say “The lawyer is presently eligible to practice law in North Carolina.”
If an attorney is not licensed to practice in your state or has had their license suspended, they should not be attempting to serve as your attorney. You should NOT hire this individual and you should also report them to your State Bar Association for practicing law without a valid license.
Disciplinary Actions and Complaints
You may also wish to research into any disciplinary actions or complaints that have been made about the attorney that you are considering hiring. The ABA National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank is the only existing national repository of information regarding public regulatory actions reported against lawyers throughout the United States. You may also research public actions taken against attorneys by contacting your State Bar Association, but it is generally easier to locate records through the ABA National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank.
To make a request for information with the Data Bank you should begin your search with the state where the lawyer is known to be licensed (Directory of Lawyer Disciplinary Agencies.) Searches that are approved into the Data Bank will be accepted so long as the inquirer confirms the request in writing.
For more information on this process you can contact the National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank at the following address:
National Lawyer Regulatory Data Bank
Center for Professional Responsibility
American Bar Association
321 North Clark St.
Chicago, IL 60610
Association With Organizations
You can also research organizations that are relevant to your attorney’s profession. For example, in the case of immigration attorneys, that organization is AILA or the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Being a member of an organization like this isn’t mandatory, but it does show a genuine interest in the field of law and shows a passion for their work.
Passion is what makes attorneys great at what they do. It’s not only the associations we mentioned above that show dedication, though. Many reputable attorneys devote themselves to involvement in cases outside of their regular workload, these are often landmark cases and require a great deal of dedication and work. An attorney who would devote that much time to something within their field is invested in their field.
Are You Looking For An Immigration Lawyer with Experience?
If you live in or around Pasadena, California, and are looking for an immigration lawyer with experience and a positive reputation? Nelson and Associates can help! Just pick up the phone and give us a call today at 626-683-3451 to set up a consultation on your case.