How do I Pick a Good Immigration Lawyer? What should I Consider When Selecting an Immigration Lawyer?

We are often surprised by the number of prospective clients that contact us that have had a horrible experience with their previous immigration counsel. The experiences include incompetence, neglect, apathy, bill padding and even fraud. Given the stakes that are involved when searching for immigration relief, a bad immigration lawyer can be tragic for an applicant. So how do you select a good immigration attorney? Here are a few basic tips that you can consider when deciding to hire an immigration lawyer. A good immigration lawyer or law firm can make the world of difference and it is a good idea to fully evaluate an immigration lawyer before you select him/her.

1. Check to see if the lawyer is actually a lawyer and if the lawyer is in good standing with their bar association.
See our article by clicking here on common immigration Fraud scams. Most Bar associations publicly disclose who is a member of their Bar and also when a lawyer has been sanctioned. As a general rule, if the lawyer had been disciplined by their Bar association, you may want to move to another lawyer. We have had clients where their previous lawyers had significant public reprimands and the clients were not aware. In some cases the lawyer had actually been disbarred but continued to represent him/herself as a lawyer. The so called “Notario” fraud is also rampant.

2. Check to see if the lawyer is a member of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
AILA is the national association of immigration lawyers that was established to promote justice, the philosophy of fair and reasonable immigration law and policy, advance the quality of immigration law, and enhance the professional development of the members. The group has over 12,000 members and provides regular continuing education training for immigration lawyers. Most immigration lawyers and firms are members of AILA and if the lawyer or law firm is not, this may give you an indication that the firm does not focus primarily on immigration law.

3. Google, Google, Google
You should perform simple google searches on the lawyer and the firm. Use key words including the firm or lawyer’s name combined with, “reviews”, “bad reviews,” “Complaints”, “Testimonials.” You can often find out a significant amount of information from simple Google searches that can help you. You should also consider the lack of an internet presence when deciding on a lawyer. If the lawyer or law firm does not appear on the internet, this may be a sign that they do not have many clients or that the firm is regionally focused.

4. Check the Reviews of the Lawyer and Law Firm and Check whether the Law firm is a Member of the Better Business Bureau
There are many websites that review lawyers and law firms. One prominent review site is called AVVO. You can see the perfect rating based on 37 reviews for Scott Legal, P.C. here. You can also see reviews on Google, Yelp, and other organizations. You can also check to see if a firm is a member of the Better Business Bureau. The link to their website can be reached by clicking here. You can also search to see if your lawyer has been selected as a Super Lawyer.

5. Ask About Performance and the Immigration Cases the Firm has Worked On
Some lawyers are perfectly happy to take on a case that is not in their area of expertise and use the client as a paying Guinea pig. If you are applying for an E-2 visa for example, ask the lawyer how many E-2 cases that they have worked on and get that in writing. You can also ask how many they have had approved. Immigration is a vast field so be sure to hire a lawyer that has extensive experience in the area that you are looking for.

6. Consider More than Just Price
All we can say here is that you often get what you pay form. Many immigration law lawyers will post fees that are extremely low and we have taken over cases where the client received horrible service and negative outcomes. This is not always the case but something to consider.

7. Go With Your Gut
If something does not feel right, you should listen to your instinct. This has to do with personality but also hard sales jobs. With immigration, some may promise the world when the applicant does not have a remedy. The old saying “If it sounds good to be true, it usually is not good and usually not true” usually applies. Also, if a lawyer is non responsive or I short with you before you actually hire them, you can just imagine what it will be like after they have taken your money.

Ian E. Scott is a Harvard Law School Graduate, lawyer and author of Law School Lowdown: Secrets of Success from the Application Process to Landing Your First Job. You can access the blog for this book by clicking here. Mr. Scott worked as a corporate litigator in the law firm Cleary Gottlieb and currently runs his own law firm Scott Legal, P.C. specializing in Immigration Law & New Business set-up.

For more practical or legal advice contact Scott Legal, P.C.. We offer services in a number of business areas including, Immigration, New Business set up, Contract review and development and entrepreneurial support. Call 212-223-2964 or email for a consultation.



  1. Sarah Smith June 27, 2016 7:58 pm

    My husband’s family are immigrants and they are running into issues. Thanks for the advice about hiring an immigration lawyer and making sure that they are in good standing with their bar association. Hopefully, we can get all the issues straightened out with the help of a lawyer.

  2. Luke Smith October 24, 2016 10:22 pm

    I loved your advice to go with your gut. I imagine that when choosing an attorney it would be important to know a little about them and get a feel for what sort of person they are. I can’t think of a better way to do that then talking with them in person so you can get that gut feeling. My sister has been thinking of hiring an attorney. I will suggest that she try to meet them in person before making a selection.


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