How to Get Good Legal Help



 

This article is about:

  • How to find a legal advocate;
  • How to check if a legal advocate is qualified; and
  • How to work with a legal advocate.

How to find a legal advocate

You can get legal help for your case from a non-profit organization or a private immigration lawyer. Nonprofits have lawyers or specialized staff (called DOJ reps) who can help with immigration cases. Help from a non-profit is free or low-cost for low-income people. If you use a private lawyer, you will have to pay the lawyer's fee.

To find a nonprofit near you, go to the Find Legal Help page on this site and then:

  1. Enter your zip code.
  2. Find a nonprofit near you.
  3. Contact them to ask if they can take your case.

If you want a private lawyer who knows about immigration law go to the American Immigration Lawyers Association's website.

How to check qualifications

Only lawyers and DOJ accredited representatives (DOJ reps) are qualified to give immigration legal advice. Notarios and "immigration consultants" are not qualified to give legal advice. Some nonprofits have lawyers, some have DOJ reps, and some have both. Private law offices have lawyers. Before you get legal help at a nonprofit or private law office, ask who will work on your case.

  • If a lawyer will help you, check the government list of lawyers who are being disciplined. Or you can ask where the lawyer is licensed to practice. Each state has a "bar association" that keeps a record of the lawyers and reports problems on the state bar website.
  • If a DOJ rep will help you, then go to the government list to check the person's qualifications.

Working with a legal advocate

If a lawyer or DOJ rep can take your case, get a written agreement that shows how you will work together. Before you sign, ask for: 

  • A written estimate of the legal fees;
  • A list of services they will provide for that fee;
  • A list of what to do to help with your case; and
  • An estimate of how long your case will take. Sometimes it is hard to know how long a case will take.

Keep a copy of the documents you give the legal advocate; and get a copy of the applications or other documents they file for you. Tell your legal advocate if you change your address or phone number.

Reviewed March 4, 2021