Below is an anonymous story that offers an example of what can happen if an unqualified lawyer is used for immigration services.
This story emphasizes the importance of finding a quality lawyer early on.
Prior to choosing an immigration attorney, read the document Guidelines for Finding a Qualified Immigration Attorney for Obtaining an Immigrant Visa Assistance.
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In May of 2011, I began working with a law firm on what I’m told is a relatively simple immigration case. I was assured by a partner of the firm that they could competently handle the case, and with a year to work on it, presumably they could become familiar with any requirements they were unacquainted with.
Over the period of 14 months, and increasingly so toward the conclusion of the case, it became clear that the firm did not have the competency to deal with the case, and when concerns were voiced over a period of a year, they were repeatedly ignored. There’s a substantial paper trail documenting this over many months.
- Requests not to send confidential information by email were ignored.
- Employees and partners of the firm used personal email accounts to transmit confidential information and attachments. This is contrary to the firm’s stated policies in their email signature line, it exposes documents to potential electronic eavesdropping, and thus doesn’t fully adhere to the requirement that an attorney safeguard client property.
- Repeated requests for document shipping and delivery tracking details were ignored.
- The necessary filing documents were not submitted promptly even after repeated email requests.
- Payments made were not processed in a timely fashion. This delayed the case. Email inquiries about these delays were not responded to.
- Many emails went unanswered, and only after repeated requests would answers come.
- Documents were not returned in a timely manner.
- Promises were made by email stating that aspects of the case had “been taken care of” when in fact they had not been attended to.
- We were given incorrect information about the visa procedures and the process was handled incorrectly despite our repeated emails informing the firm of the correct procedures for our case and Embassy.
- The firm misrepresented their ability to handle the case.
- A year later, the firm was still making egregious mistakes that could have been avoided by a simple five minute phone call to the National Visa Center, or simply looking up document submission requirements on the government website. The mistakes they were making significantly delayed the visa processing.
- The firm was repeatedly told in writing to submit the filing documents physically, yet they improperly submitted them by email instead, contrary to NVC guidelines.
- After multiple promises from the firm stating that our documents had been submitted to the NVC, it was discovered that the documents had still not been submitted. They had emailed a few items, but the complete packet that we’d provided hadn’t been mailed in.
Yesterday, on 24 July 2012, some of the above concerns were raised again with the firm, including the fact that they falsely stated our documents had been submitted when they hadn’t been sent. All of this was done politely and diplomatically. Rather than apologizing, the partner of the firm falsely asserted that his staff felt I was demanding, rude, and disruptive (as well as some other unfounded and absurd claims). I was shocked. It made me very uncomfortable to think that the partner and staff would make false accusations about me — possibly to intimidate me into not reporting them to the state bar association.
It’s hard to put into words how upsetting it is to go through an experience like this. A lawyer is expected to be someone you trust to be honest, ethical, and reliable. This attorney and his firm violated that trust, falsely accused me of being disruptive to their staff, and in doing so, attempted to threaten me and intimidate me.
So, ultimately, I had to take over the immigration case myself with the help of officials at the National Visa Center, and submit all the required documents personally — at the last minute using FedEx overnight delivery.
In communicating with the NVC officials, it became clear that the lawyer was not qualified to handle this case, and I was advised that such a simple case is probably best handled without an attorney.
The website Lawyers.com offers an article about reporting a lawyer for ethics violations. Among the points listed on the site are the following examples of ethical issues worth reporting to the state bar association:
- Failing to communicate with the client
- Not returning the client’s documents
- Not safeguarding the client’s property
- Misrepresentation by the attorney. For instance, when an attorney says he has a lot of experience in your type of case when in fact he has little or none
- Misplacing client funds, refusing to pay over money owed to a client, or improper billing procedures
That list closely describes my experience with this firm.
Considering what has transpired, for fear of unpredictable retribution and further threats, I’m not publicly disclosing the name of the firm, but felt it important to publicly disclose what happened while it was fresh in my memory.
~ Anonymous (name withheld for privacy)
About This Document. The above document is written in a way to ensure the anonymity of the attorney and law firm being referred to. Rather than using fictitious names, no names are provided. It is written for the purpose of consumer advocacy, as well as serving as an accurate memoir for the person who is sharing the story. As with most of the documents on this site, this document will probably be revised and expanded to over time to ensure it is current and comprehensive. Revisions and additions are based on further research, reader feedback, and site visitor data. More articles about consumer advocacy can be found on this website, or by referring to the Consumer Defense Resource Group.
Contributors. We wish to thank the National Visa Center, the Iowa State Bar Association and the Iowa Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board as well as other attorneys who offered feedback helpful for developing the above article.