What Do Clients Expect from Their Attorneys?
“As long as the world shall last there will be wrongs, and if no man objected and no man rebelled those wrongs would last forever.” – Clarence Darrow
Many long hours are spent by attorneys deliberating on how best to strategize a case and on researching the law both supportive and detrimental to the client. The irony in all this labor is that often the lawyer is seen as one whose profession leads him or her to extract money from unsuspecting or naïve clients.
So what exactly should an attorney be doing? Can the attorney juggle the business side of paying bills and salaries while being a truly dedicated and honest advocate for his or her client? The simple answer must be yes.
As immigration lawyers, the task is onerous and hazardous though filled with the joys of success for those well-deserving clients whose future will be forever changed by their ability to stay or become legal in a country that often makes the task take years of hard work.
Since immigration clients often vary in cultural, social, and educational backgrounds, the attorney may be ill-equipped with his or her psychological toolbox but nevertheless is viewed by the client as a therapist or healer of all woes. Clients often, against all reason, hope that this attorney will have a crystal ball or magic wand to change their life or future.
As attorneys, we work with facts and law, neither of which we can change. Yet, we must guide, encourage, and assist when possible to change the harsh realities that so often exist for the parent, child, or spouse. These fears often relate to dangers in their home country, from which they have escaped, or to desperate efforts to keep a marriage together that is precipitating towards divorce. Other problems include determined efforts by clients to maintain a nonimmigrant status while they wait for the State Department quota of oversubscribed and delayed categories, for which they are eligible, to become current. Professional or skilled workers categories in the last three years have been moving backwards each month rather than forward. This causes years of delay instead of the estimated months that it should have taken for professionals who are awaiting green cards through employment-based petitions.
Sometimes it is just a race against the clock for legal and illegal aliens who are struggling in a spiraling economy where their jobs are most at risk. Yet other times, it can be a struggle against the time bar for reopening a case where information from the immigration service was never sent or not received by the applicant due to several physical relocations. Lack of language skills or knowledge of procedures and the inability to retain an attorney due to lack of funding can also be the cause of the problem. All this is reason for considerable concern.
Our passion as attorneys for what we do and the exercise of professional judgment in cases must also be accompanied by a true caring and compassion, where appropriate, for the person, not just the client business relationship. At times, it is necessary to recognize and in all honesty tell the client that, despite his or her tragic circumstances, there is no relief and that nothing can be done.
Sincerity and determination by the attorney to succeed for the client can make the difference, especially when a case may last years and go through many different stages. This can also be hazardous to the client if fee details are not discussed in advance and along the way to avoid confusion.
Confidential details of the client’s case should not be shared with others in public as this may jeopardize the trust and security of the client.
So what are the seven vital and determining qualities that the client should look for in his or her attorney?
• the ability to explain and communicate to the client the steps needed in his or her case in plain English or with translation into their language
• the ability to analyze the case honestly and evaluate the chance of success or failure in a realistic manner, even if this isn’t what the client wants to hear and will not bring the attorney his or her business.
• skills and experience of the attorney to deal with various types or categories of cases showing recognized qualifications
• flexibility and integrity in switching tactics if one avenue fails to produce the results needed or another avenue would work just as well and at less cost to the client
• passion and empathy to do what is best for the client despite any other factors
• the ability to refer the client to a specialist, such as a physician, social worker, or psychologist, who can mentally or physically support the client as needed
• the ability to refer the client to an expert social anthropologist or political country specialist in order to build a firm foundation for relief
When an attorney exerts his or her best efforts on behalf of the client, not only will it usually lead to success but also, even when it does not, the practitioner will have the satisfaction of knowing that he or she did whatever could be done under the law. The client will hopefully also appreciate that he or she was priority number one for that time period.
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