This seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
However, during the past week, I had the opportunity to talk to two different immigrants who are headed for immigration disaster because they relied on the legal advice of a paralegal rather than speaking with an attorney.
Immigration attorneys constantly warn potential clients about the dangers of hiring immigration consultants and notarios instead of hiring experienced attorneys. However, the immigrants that I spoke to did hire law firms, but never got to speak with the attorneys. All of their inquiries were routinely handled by paralegals. Only when they were placed into removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge did the attorneys suddenly take an interest in their cases.
At that point, the immigrants took their business elsewhere.
Please don’t get me wrong. In most immigration law firms, especially those which specialize in employment-based immigration, the majority of the day-to-day tasks are performed by paralegals. For example, most of the H-1B, L-1, O-1 and P-1 petitions and PERM applications handled by our law firm are completed by paralegals. And they do a great job.
However, they are supervised by attorneys. And they know enough to refer any legal questions posed by a client to an attorney.
Regrettably, some immigration law firms instruct their paralegals to handle each case from beginning to end, and to respond to all client questions, and not to bother the attorneys.
This is a recipe for disaster, both for the client and for the law firm. While most of our paralegals know far more about USCIS fees, procedures, LCAs and such than Yours Truly, they are not necessarily experts regarding complex legal questions involving section 245i, 245k, criminal convictions, CSPA, etc., etc.
That is where we instruct our paralegals to have our clients to talk one-to-one with an attorney.
This is not rocket science. If you check into a hospital for heart surgery, you want to be operated on by a skilled heart surgeon, not by a registered nurse or a therapist.
The sooner immigrants demand to speak with an attorney when they have a legal question, the sooner the offending attorneys will get with the program. After all, it is their responsibility, their license and their malpractice insurance.
And, of course, not all attorneys are created equal. If you are looking for the best results in your immigration case, you should do some research before you hire a law firm to represent you.
A good place to start is by viewing our video, “How to Select an Immigration Attorney”.