What’s (the point of) an Immigration Consultation?

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We do a lot of consultations.

 

A consultation is an intensive one-hour of legal advice with either Lori or me and often, if the matter is complicated or unusual, both of us. We charge $300 for a consultation. If clients hire us to do the matter, we take the consult fee off the flat rate.

 

Some people wonder about the value of a $300 consultation, when other lawyers offer this for free or a nominal amount.  Here are some typical questions we get and our general answers.

 

Is a consultation necessary?

 

No, but I think it is at least helpful to spend the $300 to make sure you are on the right track should you choose to do the immigration paperwork yourself.

 

Can we just meet to discuss what you do generally without specifics to my case?

 

There isn’t really any use in meeting to discuss what we do in general terms, because what we do is highly dependent on the individuals and their particular circumstances. In a consultation with a client, we get a detailed history of all relevant information, get a sense of the individuals involved in order to assess things like expectations, the level to which he or she is risk-averse and how realistic the clients are about their situation. We also quickly determine whether it is the type of case or type of client we can take on. Sometimes it just isn’t a good fit. Most people bring a list of questions and we go through that. We then explain the various options and pitfalls of each (that is assuming there are options). And we give our advice about which of the options has the best chance of success.

 

But do I really need a lawyer?

 

You certainly don’t need a lawyer for most immigration work generally and in particular, you don’t need us. But legal advice is very helpful, as immigration processes are complex (at least in the sense that it is not a very intuitive system). And there are serious consequences if you don’t start off on the right foot. Getting a consultation at the beginning assures you are on the right track and that if things go awry during the process, you know who to call.

 

Having said that, there are some immigration matters that almost always call for a lawyer’s assistance, such as Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications, refugee matters, appeals, anything involving permanent residence where there are “red flags” (for example prior refusals or criminal history or health issues). And really, anything that is stressful and emotional and high-stakes often benefits from having an objective, professional advocate on your side.

 

Citizenship and Immigration Canada (www.cic.gc.ca) tells people they don’t need lawyers and that is entirely true, but I can tell you, at least anecdotally, that our practice is snowballing.  We are being hired to do more and more simple things like citizenship applications because people are getting worried about all the media attention surrounding the unscrupulous consultants and fraud charges. And in my opinion, CIC has made things so complicated that it’s hard to imagine anyone doing their own immigration paperwork without the benefit of at least some legal advice.

 

But will having a lawyer ensure my application is processed quickly?

 

Having a lawyer represent you gives you the assurance that the matter is being done properly from the start and that someone is dealing with it on your behalf. It doesn’t guarantee it will be processed faster or be approved but it does ensure it will not be delayed due to common errors or oversights, etc.

 

Some lawyers offer free consultations or reduced rates, why don’t you?

 

As a general rule, if someone wants our advice or skills or representation, they need to pay for it. Immigration and refugee law is our passion, our profession, our talent and our expertise.

We do some volunteer legal work in the community. When people call us asking for legal advice but saying they cannot afford it, we generally refer them to one of the local organizations that offer those services for free. If we get called by one of those organizations to assist with a case, we jump on board whenever we can.

 

If you can’t offer a free consultation, I know of a lawyer who will.

 

Fill your boots! There is nothing wrong with a free consultation. We encourage people to get second opinions or meet with whoever they want. My only caveat is, make sure before you hire any lawyer, they have the right expertise. To me, that means experience, plain and simple.  As a rule of thumb, at least 25 previous cases of the same type of application you need to do will give you the assurance the lawyer has that expertise.