In this election year, we are all focused more than ever on the threats to immigration coming from without, especially attempts by both parties to court white nativist voters. I would like to think that my own bloggings have not been entirely oblivious to this issue. But as lawyers, we should not ignore dangers to our clients and potential clients coming from within our own profession.
There has been a good deal written on the need to put unlicensed "notarios" out of the business of giving "legal advice" which can be dangerous, if not fatal, to a client's immigration health. However, what if the incompetent advice comes from within an immigration law firm itself?
By raising this question, I am not in any way impugning the ability or professionalism of my fellow immigration lawyers. I am instead referring to the tendency in some immigration law offices to let paralegals answer what may seem to be "routine" legal questions or to handle cases without proper supervision. Many instances of this have been mentioned to me by people who have later come to my office.
I will give just one example. Recently, I was consulted by someone whose prospective employer was interested in offering a classic H-1B position, one which has been listed in the OOH for many years (and still is), as normally requiring a 4-year bachelor degree (or equivalent) related to the field in question, and which is routinely accepted by USCIS as a specialty occupation. The client in question is also well qualified on the basis of education and work experience in the field.
However, the client was thoroughly discouraged at our first meeting, after having been told by one or more immigration law firm paralegals that she was completely unqualified for H-1B approval. Apparently, she had never actually spoken with an attorney.
The paralegals with whom she had spoken with, according to what she told me, had: a) misunderstood or overlooked what her actual field of competence was, and advised her regarding her chances of being approved for a different position in which she admittedly had few if any qualifications; b) completely misunderstood her educational qualifications, and c) that her employer already had too many other H-1B workers to allow it to apply for her H-1B. The number of other H-1B workers involved was well under seven.
Fortunately, I was able to dispell her misunderstandings, and the H-1B preparations are well under way. But, because, of the previous advice she had received from law firm paralegals, she had almost given up on her chances of being approved for H-1B. Some immigration lawyers may consider themselvs too busy to speak with everyone who calls. But supervising conversations between clients or potential clients and law firm paralegals is vital.
Roger Algase is a graduate of Harvard College and Harvard Law School. He has been practicing business immigration law in New York City for more than 20 years