Consumers are especially reluctant, especially in this economy, to spend money for a consultation with an immigration lawyer. It is often just too tempting to call and speak with an attorney’s office that offers free consultations. However, as some people later find out to their own detriment, you sometimes get what you pay for. This is not to say that anything is wrong with free consultations. It is important, though, to appreciate and understand some potential drawbacks and deficiencies associated with “free” immigration consultations. Here’s a quick list of general considerations one ought to keep in mind.
- Limited time and information: During a free consultation—if you are even able to speak with an actual licensed attorney, and not a receptionist or paralegal—you will often be limited to how much time you can actually spend. Some attorneys limit their consultations to only 15 minutes. Given these limitations, an attorney may not be able to realistically understand everything about your particular case or thoroughly assess and formulate a strategy.
- Lack of commitment: Attorneys who offer free consultations may not be fully invested in your case, as they are not being paid for their time. This can result in a lack of attention and focus necessary to determine how best to resolve your situation.
- Sales pitch: If anything, some lawyers use free consultations as a bait to get consumers in the door, after which they try to sell their services and persuade you to hire them so that their time is not wasted.
- Lack of experience: Some of the attorneys who offer free consultations (but certainly not all of them) may be fledging lawyers just starting out. They may not have a steady client base, heavy enough of a caseload, or experience to necessarily handle your matter, which can put your application at risk.
- Conflicts of interest: Some free consultations may be offered by non-attorneys such as notarios or by attorney referral services who may not be licensed to render legal advice or the organization that will actually be working on your case. Obviously, it is important to know who you are working with, and that the company you go to is the actual company that will be doing the work on your matter.
That being said, free consultations can still be of tremendous value to an individual seeking legal help if it is used properly with the appropriate expectations. For example, if one is using a free consultation to get a general understanding or idea about one’s case, or gather general information, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. In any case, whether consulting with an attorney during a free or paid consultation, one should exercise due diligence and research the attorney’s experience, credentials, reputation, and areas of concentration. An immigration attorney who specializes in family-based matters such as marriage cases and sibling files may not be as knowledgeable as someone who only handles employment based cases or H-1bs. Additionally, one should inquire how much consultations are if one wants to pay for one, and what benefits the firms offers for consultations that are paid over ones where there is no fee.
As a general rule, our firm does not offer free consultations. However, with the benefit of paid consultation, we do offer you the opportunity and time to explain your matter; have an attorney evaluate your case; get your questions answered; and in many cases, have the attorney recommend or devise a gameplan to solve your issue. If you are interested in booking a consultation for US Citizenship, family petitions, hardship waivers, CSPA, VAWA, humanitarian reinstatement—just to name a few—don’t hesitate to contact our office.
The above is general information only. It is not specific legal advice nor intended to create an attorney client relationship. If you need advice, please consult with an attorney.