As I finished up the contract, my new client looked at me with anxiety in his eyes and asked me, “Abogada, you lawyers, do you care about your clients?” The question surprised me, not in its content, but in the tone of disappointment in the voice of my client. As a lawyer, there will always be someone who makes jokes about lawyers being scoundrels. I’m not surprised by the jokes. There are awful lawyers out there, but there are also lawyers who do not sleep thinking about their clients. There are lawyers who give it their all for their clients and who sacrifice their peace and even time with their family so that their clients can succeed.
Unfortunately, although most lawyers value our degrees, our careers, and our clients, there are lawyers who, in order to make money quickly and easily, lend themselves to take advantage of their clients and commit immoral and harmful acts. So, how can you, as a client, protect yourself from these lawyers?
PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS AS A CLIENT
First of all, it is very important that you remember that you are the client and any lawyer you hire should respect your rights as a client. These rights include: keeping you informed, keeping your information confidential, and protecting your financial interests among others. What do I mean by this? That you have every right in the world to make sure your case is in good hands.
In order to determine if you want to work with a lawyer, I recommend that you ask the following questions during your consultation:
- Where did you get your law degree?
In case you did not know, lawyers are proud people. Obtaining a degree in law is not easy and we are very proud to share this important achievement with our clients. No worthwhile lawyer will be offended that you ask him this question. I am happy to share this information with my clients who want to know.
- In what state are you licensed to practice law?
Immigration law is federal law. This means, among other things, that the federal statutes and the policies of the Department of Homeland Security are the same in any state. This also means that a lawyer licensed in New York can practice immigration law in Georgia and vice versa. The disadvantage for the unaware is that, if you do not know in what state your lawyer has their license, you will not know where to file the complaint if the lawyer messes up your case. For example, if your case is in Georgia, but your lawyer is licensed in New York, and they make a mistake, you will not be able to file your complaint in the state of Georgia because that state was not the one who issued the license to practice. For this reason, it is very important that you know where your lawyer is licensed to practice.
- How many years have you been in the immigration field?
With this question, my intention is not to discredit new lawyers. Nobody is born with experience and all lawyers started without knowing much. However, if a lawyer is a new practitioner in the immigration area, it is extremely important that they have the supervision and advice necessary to do a good job. This is not only an important tip; it is dictated by the professional conduct regulations of all states. If your lawyer does not have much experience in this area, make sure they have someone to supervise or advise them.
REMEMBER THAT YOU ARE THE CUSTOMER AND YOU HAVE RIGHTS PROTECTED BY LAW
Another problem I find when representing clients that come to me after working with an earlier lawyer who has disappointed them is that the client never learned to behave as a client.
When asked the name of their previous lawyer, ninety percent of my clients do not know! Imagine that you lend someone $ 10,000. Would you remember the name of that person? Of course! Ten thousand dollars is a very high sum of money and very few people would forget the name of the person to whom they’ve lent such a large amount of money. However, many people cannot tell me the name of the lawyer who charged them $ 10,000 and did nothing for them. This is because the person never learned to appreciate himself or herself as a client.
When working with other lawyers, many people pitifully assume a submissive position, as if the lawyer were doing them a favor. I beg you to stop thinking like that! You are paying for a service. You deserve to know what is happening in your case, you deserve your lawyer to communicate with you, at least once a month; Although nothing new has happened, it is good to know that things are still in order.
This is a summary of your rights as a client:
- Be treated with dignity and respect
- Know the cost of the services provided and how the attorney will charge you.
- Have your lawyer represent you competently
- That your lawyer does not have a loyalty opposed to yours. Your lawyer cannot represent you and someone fighting against you at the same time.
- To be served on time and to receive communications about your case in a consistent manner.
- That your lawyer does not neglect the money you pay him or her.
- Finally and extremely important: you have the right to complain if your lawyer acts illegally or incorrectly. You have the right to have your lawyer behave responsibly.
When reading that list, ask yourself, is this the way I have been treated? Is this the way I want to be treated? I firmly believe that when clients ask questions, stay informed, and behave like clients who have rights, this forces lawyers to provide a better service.
My desire in opening Martí Law Firm was, first of all, to provide a quality service to my clients. Lawyering is a noble profession that changes lives and changes the course of history. My duty as a lawyer is also to enhance this profession and that, with every client that I represent, I can positively change the opinion of the people about lawyers. This begins with my duty to share this information with you, the public.
And if you want to know, we managed to obtain a favorable result for the client at the beginning of this article. Now, he does not ask if his lawyer cares about him because he knows the answer: at Martí Law Firm, we value our clients.