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I am in the process of finding an attorney to help with my Green Card application. I consider myself very knowledgeable about this subject, but I am not an expert nor do I have any personal experience. My case is pretty straightforward and I expect that the application will be successful, but I want to hire a professional to avoid the stress of doing everything myself, as well as ensure that I don't cause any unnecessary issues for myself through an error on my part.

I have never had significant business with an attorney before. There are many attorneys in my area, and all of them seem to want a consultation to discuss any details (including price). However, I'm finding this process a bit confusing and difficult. Even though my application is mostly finished, they don't want to look at it in detail until I actually hire them (usually the consultation is free or much cheaper than their services). They often assure that my case will be simple, but that doesn't help me choose which one to actually hire. After some thinking, I've come up with my own list of what an attorney can compete on. Ranked from most important to least, it is:

  • Accuracy: Make sure the application doesn't get unnecessarily denied or delayed due to how it's filled
  • Speed: Prepare and submit everything quickly.
  • Friendliness and not being distracted by other cases while dealing with mine.
  • Experience: Ideally with other people from my country, but also family green cards in general.
  • Price and value (most want to charge a flat fee for this).

Generally, in a consultation a lawyer reviews the client's case and tells them what can be done about it. However, I already have a good idea of this from personal research as well as previous consultation. My goal in the consultation is really to figure out how competitive the lawyer is in the five areas I've listed above.

So, what should I ask during the consultation to help me determine which lawyer is most suitable for me? I would have liked to simply pull out the above list, and say "I am shopping around and I will hire the person who best meets these criteria, give me your pitch on how well you can meet them", but that would probably be a rude thing to do.

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    I suggest paying attention to communication skills: do they explain things in a way that you understand and can trust? – user6726 Jul 13 '18 at 17:48
  • @user6726 A lot of them don't really explain much that isn't extremely basic (ie. not clearly spelled out in official instructions). To use this strategy I would need to ask them about more complex/detailed points of the procedure, to which they reply "You haven't hired me yet so I can't advice you on specifics of the application". – Consis Jul 13 '18 at 22:52
  • You omitted the crucial details from the title: that it's for a GC, and specifically a family-based (marriage-based) GC, not an employment-based GC, and also by the sound of it you then want to file subsequent GC petitions for your other family members. so, obvious thing is make sure your attorney works at least X% of their time and also has at least Y years experience in marriage-based GCs, not just H1B petitions, K-visas, stays of deportation and miscellaneous immigration-related stuff. What are X and Y? Ideally at least 30-50% of their time and 4-8 years. Check their record on martindale – smci Jun 20 at 23:40
  • @smci You are putting a lot of words in my mouth, and I disagree with your edit. – Consis Jun 30 at 3:48
  • @Consis: I'm not putting any words in your mouth, I'm asking for the details you omitted. As to the title, either your question is about petititioning for marriage-based GC or employment-based GC, which is it? They are different animals and typically handled by different lawyers (or even law firms). If you want to get good answers you'll need to state the question. – smci Jun 30 at 18:45
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Only hire specialists in immigration with at least several years of experience (ask him or her about this).

Hire an attorney and not just a notary.

Hire someone who has someone in the office who speaks your native language.

Hire someone for whom you can afford to pay the entire fee.

Look at Yelp and other online reviews.

Check the Attorney Registration website in your state to make sure that the lawyer is still in good standing in your state.

Get referrals and anti-referrals from people you know who have used immigration lawyers.

See if he or she seems to know what he's talking about and what you're talking about in your initial meeting and ask for a time and fee estimate.

Remember that your goal is to hire someone who can get the job done. Don't stress about whether this is the best person for the job.

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"I am shopping around and I will hire the person who best meets these criteria, give me your pitch on how well you can meet them", but that would probably be a rude thing to do.

Forget about being rude or not. No lawyer will admit incompetence or lack of diligence. Those who have screwed up any cases are not going to tell you truthfully how that happened.

not being distracted by other cases while dealing with mine.

You can't prevent that from happening. Lawyers handle various cases simultaneously, and to them your case is just another one in their queue. Moreover, attorneys typically file documents on the deadline, which is too risky because unforeseen events might cause the lawyer to miss a deadline.

You might want to ask for verifiable, redacted logs or records of cases they've handled which are reasonably similar to yours. I have asked (and been provided with) that in the context of fund management, although I have my doubts that a lawyer would be open to a scrutiny of his or her performance. Despite the existence of the attorney-client privilege, a lawyer could still produce redacted logs without preempting your ability to verify with the DOL & USCIS records the timing and outcomes of that lawyer's representations.

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    "Forget about being rude" sounds like terrible advice. If it is an otherwise competent lawyer that I would have wanted to hire, I don't want them to refuse to work with me simply because I annoyed them during the consultation. Lawyers are people too after all, and nobody likes an obnoxious client. – Consis Jul 13 '18 at 22:54
  • Also, regarding multiple cases: Please notice that I'm not concerned with how many other clients they have. Obviously it would be idiotic to insist that I be the lawyer's sole client. My concern is whether they are organized enough to not let those get in the way. For instance, I don't want to be confused with other client, be told "hold on I gotta talk to another client", etc. The other clients are not any concern of mine, therefore I don't want them brought up in our business. – Consis Jul 13 '18 at 22:57
  • Last paragraph sounds like good advice, but are you talking about selecting fund managers or about finding lawyers for legal business related to funds? – Consis Jul 13 '18 at 22:58
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    "You might want to ask for verifiable, redacted logs or records of cases they've handled which are reasonably similar to yours." For a marriage-based GC, that is an insane request and would be a gross breach of privacy. Any decent attorney would avoid you like the plague. Most important is word-of-mouth referrals from successful clients - ask around discreetly. Also, check their record independently with martindale, membership and credentials with any specialist lawyer associations their county bar, Yelp, avvo.com etc. – smci Jun 20 at 23:45
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    @IñakiViggers: yes you are speculating, about something which in actuality immigration lawyers never do; that's pointless. Also, you misunderstood what "word-of-mouth referral" means: it means a human you personally know and trust says "lawyer X handled my GC case and did a good job". It clearly doesn't mean reading anonymous/unverifiable internet reviews, Yelp, nextdoor, etc. – smci Jun 21 at 19:00

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