We hired Lisa Ellis to be our immigration lawyer for a Fiancé Visa. I would not recommend her as she was not transparent regarding the cost of her services, there were inefficiencies and duplication of work, and incorrect information provided by Lisa that we were billed for. We were billed $8,452.83 by Lisa for legal services. We paid $3,420.69 for services provided before 11/4/18. We received a final invoice of $5,032.14 on 12/7/18. We were shocked – a bill of $5,000 was more than we were led to believe our entire bill would be. We contacted other immigration law offices in WA and fees other lawyers charge for the same services was $3,500-$4,000. Our visa was straightforward, with no extenuating circumstance and no errors on our part requiring extra time/expense. During a conversation on 12/10/18, Lisa stated she should have been more transparent with us regarding our bill. At no point before we received our last invoice did she inform us of a significant increase in costs. Had we been fully informed earlier regarding increases in costs, we would have completed the remaining work ourselves. In our 1st consult, Lisa advised us that by agreeing to an hourly fee, we would likely save money, rather than paying a flat rate fee agreement that is used by many immigration attorneys. She noted that our case was straightforward, and since we had already gathered the required information, she made the case that we would benefit from choosing her. As a result, we signed an hourly fee agreement with Lisa Ellis – we believe the hourly rate contract led to increased costs. There was repetition of work at our lawyer’s office that was not necessary. For example, we received 4-5 different emails regarding confirmation of a FedEx delivery to us. Consequently, we received multiple emails verifying cancellations for these overlapping jobs. As well, some items described in an invoice were tasks that were completed by Lisa Ellis, rather than being completed by her paralegal. For example, she charged us for her time to complete a form for courier delivery to us. In an email to us, in response to a request to clarify why there was a delay in starting the process of requesting an FBI check, Lisa suggested she would be reviewing processes within her office to ensure things ran more smoothly, as she believed there were functional issues that needed to be addressed. Lisa provided me with incorrect instructions in an email explaining how I could complete the DS-160 online questionnaire. Within the same email, she detailed how I should make a consulate appointment immediately after I completed the DS-160 questionnaire. This was not the correct process for the U.S. Consulate in Montreal. I was supposed to wait to hear back from the consulate before booking an interview. In an email to Lisa and me, the consulate stated any appointment booked early would be cancelled. I had to email Lisa to clarify her instructions. She emailed back to confirm the consulate appointment should be cancelled and that I should wait to hear back from the consulate before booking an appointment. This was not our error, it was incorrect instructions provided by Lisa, which led to more confusion for us, extra time, work, and back and forth emails required for clarification. After a concerted, good faith attempt to resolve our dispute regarding these charges, both by phone and email, we offered to go to mediation, she declined. After an examination of our options, including contacting the WA Bar Association, our only alternative was to pay the bill of $8,452.83, as Lisa was going to send our case to collections. In summation, these charges were excessive. As well, we should not be responsible for costs incurred that were a result of incorrect information, inefficiencies, and duplication of work on the part of our attorney.
Response from Lisa Ellis April 9, 2019
I am sorry that you do not recommend me. While your K-1 case was approved successfully, I wasn't aware that you believe the costs of your K-1 case with consular processing would be capped at $3,500-$4,000 until we finished all the work. We had a signed hourly fee agreement. K-1 cases with consular processing do cost more than K-1 cases involving only the Form I-129F. Our office does advise clients when we believe costs will increase, as we did in your case. We use the automated notification feature for our FedEx shipments as a way to reduce costs. Our consular instructions are based on the Department of State procedures and policies which are maintained by that agency. To keep costs down, we have a experienced paralegal to assist when it is efficient to do so. We offer payment plans to make the cost more affordable. We strive for the utmost client satisfaction and client feedback is a valuable learning opportunity for us. We wish you the best.