CONSULTING WITH A U.S. IMMIGRATION ATTORNEY
Some of the people who contact our law office have never used an attorney or lawyer before.
Many have already spent some time researching about their U.S. immigration matter. They may have bought a do-it-yourself legal book about a particular U.S. immigration topic like “Marriage Visas.” Or they may have reviewed some discussions on an internet message board about various aspects of the U.S. immigration journey. But the process of interacting with a lawyer is something that they may not have had the opportunity to experience until now.
What can these folks expect after they make the decision to contact a U.S. immigration attorney? Lawyers and law offices can vary when it comes to the delivery of legal services. In the case of GOH Foreign Law Office, the process may look something like this:
Telephone call/email—Your first contact with my Osaka office may be a conversation with a receptionist in Japanese or English. In addition, we often receive emails, in Japanese or English, from people who would like some assistance.
Intake form/questionnaire—When you contact our office, you are given an intake form. The process of completing and signing an intake form might give you a sense of the issues that could be relevant to your case, and it gives the reviewing lawyer a better understanding of your situation. While most prospective clients finish this form before the initial meeting, some complete the form during the legal consultation.
Legal consultation—An appointment-only system allows prospective clients to select a convenient time with minimal disruption to their work, school, or other commitments. This meeting is an opportunity to have a 30-minute confidential discussion with me about your goals and concerns. Face-to-face meetings can be valuable. If someone is seeking an immigrant visa for their spouse, we attempt to ensure that both individuals attend this in-person meeting. Many clients are living in the Kansai region of Japan, but I have attended in-person consultations with clients from as far as Chubu, Shikoku, and Kanto, as well.
Engagement agreement—This document describes what our arrangement would be (e.g., what services I would provide, what items are not included, how much you would pay, what your obligations would be, etc.).
More in-depth questionnaire—I may elicit from you more details about your circumstances as necessary.
Request for documents/materials—I may ask you to provide to me copies of certain items that may be helpful or required for your matter.
Preparation of forms—I may draft various forms to assist you in applying for the benefits that you are seeking.
Signing of forms—We may arrange for an in-person meeting, or we may send documents by Japan Post (e.g., Letter Pack).
Case management system—We have implemented some office procedures that tend to help us provide more effective and efficient services. Our law office uses practice management software that allows us to organize the information related to your case.
Legal resources—Our law office uses an online research database, maintained by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), for access to up-to-date information on U.S. immigration issues. As a member of the State Bar of California and the Osaka Bar Association, I satisfy my continuing legal education requirements by attending AILA conferences about U.S. immigration developments that might affect my clients.
Above is a description of what you might experience with our law office, but many cases do not make it beyond the initial legal consultation. If I know that the laws do not support your objectives, you are better off hearing this sooner than later. Telling people bad news, or what they do not want to hear, can be uncomfortable. However, if the person will be worse off by paying for a petition or application that will receive an unfavorable decision, then this is an opportunity to look out for the prospective client’s best interests.
I am grateful for the opportunities to be of service to folks looking for some guidance on their U.S. immigration matters, whether it is a one-time meeting, or whether it is a lengthy engagement.
Gary O. Haase is a U.S. immigration attorney admitted in California and Japan (licensed foreign attorney). This article is for informational purposes only and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact a qualified legal professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular issue. The opinions expressed are those of the individual author and do not reflect the views or opinions of any nonprofit organization or government agency.