I have been representing clients in Immigration Court for about seven years now. I have been in Immigration Court literally hundreds of times.
First of all, it seems quite clear to me that this is a very hard area of law to practice for attorneys in West Michigan. There is only one Immigration Court in Michigan, in Detroit. As most of you reading this probably know, Detroit is on the complete opposite side of Michigan from Grand Rapids, Holland, Muskegon, Hart, Kalamazoo, and Traverse City. What does this mean for those of you who read this paper who may need a lawyer in Immigration Court?
It means that it takes many more hours for an attorney to practice in Immigration Court from the west side than an east-side attorney. Sometimes, I have to drive to Immigration Court in Detroit for a five-minute hearing. Five hours of driving, five minutes in Court. Looking at that kind of a situation from a business perspective, it looks like a waste of time.
However, I think there is another way to look at it. It might mean that those of us who specialize in representing clients in Immigration Court don’t necessarily do this work because it is profitable. We do it because we love it, and we recognize that it is important work. Speaking for myself, I practice in this area of the law for exactly that reason.
I know there are other attorneys in West Michigan that do this kind of work as well (though I do not think there are all THAT many) and I cannot speak for them, but I truly believe that this is one area of immigration law where there is a desperate need for good representation, and most people that really need it do not usually have much money to spend. That is the population I try to serve.
There are probably dozens and dozens more attorneys in and around Detroit or on the east side of Michigan that practice in Immigration Court than there are on the west side. That means that they are easier to find. Also, more competition means that those attorneys have to be good at their jobs. When there are fewer attorneys that practice in a given area, they could be very, very bad at their work, but people would have to go to them anyway because those lawyers are the only ones who do what they do.
I think this is true because most of my calls for new cases come from referrals. That means, that previous clients or other attorneys recommend me to their families, neighbors, or friends at church. Because there are fewer attorneys here on the west side of Michigan that practice immigration law or that know it well, if you need someone with this expertise, you should try to find one of the few attorneys here in West Michigan, if you need one, through people you absolutely trust.
Furthermore, you should ask questions of these people from whom you might get a referral. Did this person answer your telephone calls? Did this person spend a lot of time with you? Did this person answer all of your questions? And of course, perhaps most important, did this person win?
While it is true that some cases are harder than others—there are many cases where even the best lawyers may not be able to get a good result, a good lawyer will look for ALL options available to help in every situation. Sometimes winning means simply applying for and receiving a voluntary departure as opposed to a deportation. Sometimes winning means obtaining permanent resident status for a person who is in immigration court proceedings. You should be prepared to ask your friends and family (don’t necessarily believe the lawyer!) did this person do a good job for you?
Thanks very much for reading!