Shopping Around for Immigration Lawyers? A Review

I never used to get calls or emails from people “shopping around” for immigration lawyers. But things change.

The economy has made people consider their budgets. Now about once or twice a month I get a message from someone shopping around for immigration lawyers in New York, or immigration attorneys in New Jersey or Pennsylvania.

These are the exact words they use.

Now I fully believe that it is important to do your research, and really find out who is going to represent you best, before you engage an immigration lawyer. This is your life. And messing up an immigration case can have serious consequences. In fact I even wrote a blog post to help people find the best tools and methods for cutting through all the self promotion and finding the best lawyer to represent you. But here’s the thing:

We should shop around for deals on shoes, not lawyers

No disrespect intended, but I usually remind the parties in question that immigration lawyers are not like automobiles or shoes.

  • Citizenship
  • Green cards
  • Visas
  • Deportation defense
  • Getting out of Immigration Detention

A little different than motor vehicles or footwear.

My answer usually : Be Careful when shopping around for immigration lawyers.

I totally understand that your budget plays a part when seeking legal counsel, but much like the patient who never boasts what an awesome savings she had from the surgeon who saved her life, one should focus on matters other than just budget when looking for an immigration attorney.

The most important question you should ask before hiring an attorney?

Start with the question “what’s your success rate?”

A good lawyer should have an understanding of what your chances are, and what their success rates have been with cases that are similar to yours. This is called experience! No lawyer can ever tell you for sure if you are going to win your case, but they should have a pretty good idea of your chances BASED ON EXPERIENCE.

I understand that for many of you, times are tough.  Times are hard. People are struggling to make ends meet. But there are an awful lot of attorneys out there who are willing to charge you a “rock bottom” price like you are at one of those discount warehouses. Except this is not like trying to get a deal on groceries, or going to a flea market or pawn shop. A discount immigration attorney is likely to give you discount-level service. There is some truth to the old adage: you get what you pay for.

It’s not that you have to pay for the most expensive attorney out there, it’s just that your real concern should be: can this lawyer do the job? No matter how cheap your lawyer was, if they can’t get you into the country or out of detention, ask yourself how wise an investment you made.

There used to be a commercial on TV for auto repair (not auto sales) with the slogan, “you can pay me now or pay me later.”  Meaning: it’s better to spend your money now on quality, rather than later trying to fix a disaster.

Understand what you are paying for, and then choose value

For many people an immigration lawyers fees can seem expensive and confusing. There is a reason why a good lawyer charges what they do, but also there are lawyers out there that CAN charge too much for their services. I wrote a blog post here that explains what an immigration lawyer should be charging and why. Don’t look at the total hourly fees, find out what services that lawyer is offering for his fees, and then decide if he is offering good value.

You can always locate an attorney who will give you a “great deal.”But think about that.

  1. Is that same lawyer going to know answers to complicated immigration questions?
  2. Is that attorney available to you when you call or email him after you pay him that low price?
  3. Is that counselor even experienced in immigration law?
  4. Do they have good success with the kind of case that you are facing?

These services are invaluable when you are dealing with a green case gone wrong, or trying to get a loved one out of detention.

If you have any questions about this post, or any other Immigration related questions please do not hesitate to contact our offices at Harlan York and Associates.



Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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