Law Firm FAQs

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Law Firm Information & Policies

Q1. Why do I need to schedule a consultation?

A1. We review every case based on the individual facts pertaining to that client. We also listen to you and your priorities for family unification, work needs, travel, timing and budget. We often need to ask many questions and review a number of documents that are just not evident in a short email or phone inquiry. Often we discover something about a person’s immigration history that would change the procedure, strategy, or require a waiver of some sort. We usually spend at least an hour learning all we can about the client’s situation. Sometimes we have to do some additional research. Other times people call or come to the office with the goal of applying for one thing but we later decide to do something else.

Once we have all the facts and have determined the number, type and complexity of issues involved, we are in a better position to provide you with a specific strategy and the related fee and cost quotes. See our Consultations page to learn more about our consultation options.

If you require very low cost or pro bono (free) services, see below.

Q2. Why should I hire the Law Firm of Bonnie Stern Wasser?

A2. Great question! See a detailed answer here.

Q3. Do you provide a written fee agreement?

A3. Yes we do! It spells out specifically what we will do for you, how the fees will be determined (e.g., flat v. hourly, combo, bonus or other), how and when fees are expected to be paid, plus estimated costs. We also spell out what we expect of you, what you can expect of us, what is and is not covered by the scope of representation, and other firm policies.

Q. 4. How can I pay and can I make payments?

A. 4. We accept cash, checks drawn on US banks, Visa, Mastercard, mobile/text bank transfers (your bank needs to participate in ClearXChange) and wire transfers. Most of our flat fee cases are billed in stages of the case or based on benchmarks or milestones. In some situations where there is a lengthy period between milestones, we may accept installment payments. We will discuss fees and payment plans at your initial consultation and once we know more about your case and decide what we will do for you.

Q. 5. How does your firm communicate with me?

A. 5. First, we determine how you want to communicate with us. Email? Phone? In-person? Snail mail? Most of our clients prefer email because it is quicker and more efficient, but we will make accommodations for you. We are using an online client portal to facilitate transmission of documents and for efficiency, but it is up to you, as we know not everyone has access to a computer or the internet or likes to communicate electronically. For our out of town clients, we typically use phone or web-based teleconferencing software programs to speak with you and exchange documents. You always have access to talk with your attorney. It can be more productive if you make lists of your questions.  If you are billed hourly, of course we are billing for our time regardless of the method of communication. For hourly billing projects, we bill in increments of .1 (or minimum 6 minutes) v. the minimum .25 or 15 minutes of big firms.  Once we are retained, we WILL provide you with homework and hope that you will provide us with the information we need as soon as possible.  (See below). If you run in to trouble getting what we need, it is important to let us know right away so that we can discuss alternatives or otherwise help you out.

Q. 6. What do you expect of clients and prospective clients?

A. 6. When you make that first appointment, we will let you know what to bring. We expect at least 24 hours notice to cancel or change your appointment or we will have to bill you anyway for the missed appointment. We expect you to be truthful and forthcoming at the consultation so that we can come up with the best strategy for your case. When you hire us, we will expect you to:

  • Keep us posted of your contact information as well as for any dependents immigrating with you, or if an employer, we need updates on document signers and any decision maker contact information.
  • Keep us apprised of any changes in facts that could affect the outcome of your case, e.g., job duty, location, employer changes; marriages, divorces, births or deaths, and address changes, of course.
  • Send us documents or information requested as soon as possible. Most of the delays we see are due to clients’ busyness with work, family, travel or other reasons, making it hard for us to do our part without the documents or information we need to process their cases.
  • Pay us on time and in full as agreed/requested/invoiced.
  • Show up on time for any appointments, appearances, etc.
  • Ask us to clarify any points or information you do not understand or are unsure about. Open lines of communication are essential to the representation and we want you to know and understand what is being done for you.
  • Pleasantries are always nice. 🙂

Q. 7. What if I don’t want to spend money on a lawyer or cannot afford one?

A. 7. See our fees and costs page if you would like to consider limited representation or unbundled services.  If you cannot afford to pay a lawyer at all, there are very few organizations, at least in Washington, that provide pro bono services and also have qualified BIA accredited representatives or licensed attorneys on staff. (See below). Locally, the best place is the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project.  They are an excellent organization. They do have means testing, as they only take low income clients. NWIRP has both BIA accredited representatives and licensed attorneys on staff. And, because they are so busy, you may need to wait awhile until there is a lawyer available. Otherwise, if you are in King County, I suggest visiting the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Immigration Clinic on Wednesday evenings downtown. (Make an appointment with them first.)  (NWIRP generally requires that you visit the KCBA clinic first.) There is also an Eastside immigration clinic and the Latino/a Bar Association hosts a weekly clinic at El Centro de la Raza. There are other bar association clinics throughout Washington and in most states.

The Washington State Bar Association recently approved a new “low bono” section for people who can pay a minimal to moderate amount of money for a lawyer. This is a new group just getting underway. You will most likely have a very inexperienced but excited new lawyer who can help for little cost. See www.wsba.org.

Please know that the only people allowed to make appearances on your behalf either in immigration court or before the benefits granting agency, USCIS, are licensed attorneys, Board of Immigration Appeals “accredited representatives” who work for accredited nonprofit organizations, friends or neighbors who help you without charging a fee, and law students working under supervision of a professor. See, Find Legal Services. Notarios, immigration assistants or consultants, tax preparers, or other people who do not meet these categories authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) may not represent you or advise or prepare forms for you other than writing down what you tell them is the information for the form (commonly referred to as scrivener services or translators). See www.stopnotariofraud.org.

Because immigration law is so complicated and more than “just filling out forms,” it is best to deal with someone who has a lot of experience in the field and is appropriately licensed or authorized to provide advice and assistance. While it may be easier to save money by spending little to nothing to hire a “friend,””notario,” or do-it-yourself, as the saying goes, you often “get what you pay for.” A case that is poorly prepared initially can result in drastic consequences or more fees later on to fix the case. At least a third of our practice is fixing the problems made by do-it-yourselfers who did not fully understand the law, procedures, or subtle nuances of immigration agency practices. Beware of scams, and always, always ask for the credentials of the person you want to work with. You can check on attorney status with any state bar association (www.wsba.org here in Washington). Likewise, you should check with the BIA for authorized representatives as well as the list of disciplined attorneys and accredited representatives.

Finally, a word of caution about do-it-yourself online automated form preparing. I have tested a few of these out with sample client facts and have found the results dismaying in terms of the advice so-called artificial intelligence spits out.  Immigration law is not about the forms.  Selecting the right forms requires knowledge of the law and analysis of your eligibility. The questions on the form have very specific legal meanings. The evidence submitted in support of the forms can make or break a case. And, finally, there are the idiosyncrasies of the government adjudicators. Be very, very careful when using these services.  A bad mistake can result in removal or deportation hearings if you don’t know what you are doing.