An important issue that I have encountered in practice is attorney-client communication and preparation. Immigration law, in particular, is a very uncertain area because most types of relief are discretionary, and policies can change without much notice. Thus, it is crucial for there to be open communication between the attorney and client, and for the client to be well prepared.
Communication entails honesty and setting expectations to ensure that both the attorney and client are on the same page. Attorneys need to be honest with clients by teaching them about their case and all the positive and negative factors involved. Clients need to understand every aspect of their case, no matter how complex it may be, to avoid a feeling of betrayal or confusion when the case does not run as smooth as hoped for. We have met prospective clients that come to us for a second opinion feeling upset that things are not going well with their cases. Many are completely confused as to what their attorney is doing for them, and we often teach them about their own case. Often times, the attorneys are handling the cases in a reasonable manner, but the clients have no way of understanding unless their case is explained to them.
On the other hand, clients need to be honest with their attorneys about every aspect of their history, no matter how miniscule or embarrassing they believe it is. Honesty is the best policy. The government has many resources to investigate the truth, and things can become ugly if the client, or the attorney, commit a misrepresentation.
It is also important to maintain a line of communication during down times-such as when a case is pending and there’s not much to do but wait for the government’s response. We have seen some situations in which a client’s pending relief is not very strong, but the client becomes a victim of a serious crime for which the client could apply for a U-Visa or the client marries someone that can have a positive impact on the pending case. However, the client does not mention this to the attorney because the client believes it’s not important for the case. It’s important for the client and the attorney to continue being engaged.
Client preparation goes hand in hand with client communication. Clients feel more confident when they understand their case and trust that their attorney has spoken to them about potential issues that may arise. We have received cases in which clients feel cornered and admit to things they did not do. For example, we encountered a case in which a client was questioned-for what the client described felt like hours-at the consular interview. Fortunately, the client had relief available, but the process was delayed. This issue could have possibly been avoided if there would have been a more open communication between the attorney and client. Also, the client could have been better prepared throughout the entire case. We have practice interviews and hearings with our clients, so they feel confident when the real time comes.
In conclusion, it’s good practice for attorneys and clients to openly communicate with one another. As attorneys, we need to ask more questions and dig further into client facts, we also need to become teachers and explain the law to our clients. And, clients need to be more open about their facts, and make sure they understand how the law affects their cases. Finally, attorneys need to prepare clients and set expectations for the long, or short, road to relief.