Reading a lawyer’s resume can only tell you so much about him. One of the main differences between successful and unsuccessful immigration lawyers is the possession of certain intangible personal qualities that can make all the difference in your case. Below is a description of a few of the most important traits that an immigration lawyer should possess.
Empathy is probably the most important quality you should look for in an immigration lawyer. Does he really care what happens to you? The sad reality is that some lawyers do, and some lawyers don’t. If you don’t consider yourself a good judge of people, bring along someone who is when you meet the lawyer for a consultation. Client reviews are also helpful in this regard.
Empathy is especially important when you are paying a flat fee for a defined service such as a visa application, because your lawyer will make the same amount of money regardless of whether you win or lose, and he can always blame immigration authorities if you are rejected.
It is also particularly important if you are paying by the hour to avoid deportation — after all, your lawyer knows that if you are deported, he will probably never see you again anyway.
An Eye For Detail
Even a small error in an immigration case can cause big problems. In a worst-case scenario, an error could do irreparable damage. Even if the error can be corrected, it might delay the processing of your case for an unreasonable amount of time.
Many immigration applications require a large amount of paperwork, resulting in numerous opportunities for a small error to result in cascading negative consequences.
One way you can gauge a lawyer’s attention to detail is by speaking with him about your case, which you will have a chance to do during a consultation with him. Never forget — a little nerdiness is a good quality in an immigration lawyer.
Strong Communication Skills
Strong communication skills are a must for any lawyer. A good immigration lawyer needs both written and oral communication skills. Two of the most important communication skills are clarity and persuasiveness.
- Clarity: A good immigration lawyer should be able to take a complex issue and express it in plain language that you can easily understand. You are probably going to have to make some decisions concerning your case, and you can’t make good decisions if you don’t understand your own case. Although the lawyer may need to use a few trade terms, speaking “legalese” is not helpful.
- Persuasiveness: Just about everything that you are likely to ask your immigration lawyer to do boils down to persuading US immigration authorities to either do something or to refrain from doing something. When you speak with your lawyer, do you find him persuasive? If he doesn’t persuade you, he is unlikely to persuade US immigration authorities.
In addition to general communication skills, it would be nice if your lawyer speaks your native language. It is worth noting, however, that one of the most common mistakes made by immigration clients is overestimating the significance of a lawyer being able to speak their language.
All other things being equal, your lawyer being able to speak your native language can be quite helpful. It will do you little good, however, if his legal skills are poor.
Pessimism might seem like a strange quality to include on a list of the traits of choosing the best immigration lawyer, but it definitely belongs. It is part of the job of an immigration lawyer to think of everything that could possibly go wrong and to create a contingency plan for dealing with every single one of them.
If your lawyer is constantly blowing sunshine at you, consider seeking a second opinion.