"GREENCARD GUARANTEED." When you see advertisements or meet individuals who make such claims, RUN (don't just walk) away from such unlawful tactics. Not only is it illegal for any attorney to make a guarantee of outcome, it is also highly unethical as it misleads many immigrants into paying a higher premium with false expectations. The sad news is, there are persons out there making such false claims who are not even attorneys.
There are too many cases where unknowing immigrants become victims to purveyors of false promises. Typically, they paid a lot of money to unethical "attorneys" or immigration consultants who either failed to obtain the promised result or disappeared with the money. Unfortunately, many clients who later hire us for damage control have lost their life savings and still no green card. A lot of this heartache can be avoided by knowing the rules that govern attorneys.
Attorneys are strictly prohibited from making any guarantees on the outcome of a particular case. The California Rule of Professional Conduct 1-400 regulates how attorneys may advertise and prohibits communications that guarantee or predict the outcome of the representation. However, a lawyer should be able to point out the strength and weaknesses of your case. While most clients seeking legal advice want to know the success rate of their individual cases, it is best to ask if the lawyer has ever handled a similar case and whether or not prior cases were successful.
To ensure that the person you are meeting with is a California licensed attorney, you can visit the State Bar's homepage at www.calbar.ca.gov and go to "Attorney Search." Keep in mind that the Lawyers can become State Bar-certified specialists (and advertise themselves as such) by showing that they have extensive experience and tested ability in their field of law. Currently, the State Bar certifies lawyers in eight specialties, one of which is Immigration and Nationality Law. One of the named partners at Wilner & O'Reilly is a Certified Specialist in Immigration and Nationality Law. For an online list of State Bar-certified specialists, visit www.californiaspecialist.org and go to "Specialist Search". Yet, given our firm's combined experience and expertise, we still do not guarantee results because it is against the law and highly unethical.
When you are "attorney shopping," make sure you do some research and don't simply rely on the contents of an advertisement - especially when they make guarantees or false promises. Meet with the attorneys, check their credentials (which are readily available online), and don't be a victim of unlawful and unethical practices. Remember, unlike shopping for a car with guarantees, do not shop for an attorney that makes any guarantee on the outcome of your case.
BIOGRAPHY: Betty Chu, Esq. is an Associate at Wilner & O'Reilly, a firm specializing in Immigration Law. She is a member of the Los Angeles and Orange County Bar Associations and has been admitted to practice law in the Central and Southern Districts of California. Ms. Chu received her Juris Doctor from Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and her Bachelor of Arts in Communications from UCLA. She previously served on the American Bar Association's Negotiation Competitions Committee. She is fluent in Mandarin Chinese.