It is true that you can probably get a bargain from an attorney who has very little experience in immigration law, and the quality of the work will be commensurate with the money you save.
The above is intended only as general information, and does not constitute legal advice. You must speak with an attorney to discuss your individual case.
It is hard to imagine an inexperienced attorney having the same level of comfort and knowledge as an attorney who focuses on one particular area of law.
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It depends on the person and on application. If it's a form to change your address, then no. If something more complicated, then yes. But usually nobody does 'everything', an attorney may have 2-3 areas of specialization, it's normal.
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Immigration law is a difficult area of practice because it continuously changes. Although, the Immigration and Nationally Act is the law that directs it, other federal guidelines may amend or temporarily apply or change a section in the INA. It is best to look for an attorney in the AILA, American Immigration Lawyers Association website, http://www.aila.org. You will be able to find many members who are experienced well informed about the changes in the law.
The issue is not specialization versus generalization - the issue is competence. My colleague has correctly pointed you in the right direction to AILA. Be aware that some attorneys will not have experience in immigration law and still try to handle these kinds of cases. That is very dangerous on a number of levels. Consult with an AILA attorney and then distinguish among attorneys who have experience in the specific type of case which you are needing assistance. The questions you should ask concern how many different types of family-based cases, for example, the attorney has handled. More specifically, how many waivers, etc. If you have an appeal, find out how many appeals. As a client I know it is difficult but to avoid getting ripped off, inquire as to past cases, experience and knowledge of immigration law which can be indicated by publications, speaking engagements, involvement with the bar, and specialized associations like AILA.
No attorney-client relationship is created or implied by this communication in any way. Consult a competent immigration attorney preferably one who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
Almost no immigration case is really completely "straightforward." And would you hire a family general practitioner doctor to do your heart surgery? Immigration law is the most complicated area of law in the U.S. today, bar none, according to circuit court of appeals judges. Over half the cases in the 9th Circuit court of appeals today are immigration cases. You are in California -- go on the California State Bar website, click on "Find a Legal Specialist" then "immigration law" and your county or nearby counties. Hire a certified specialist. Those who practice other areas outside of immigration law rarely do so competently. And there are MANY of us that charge quite reasonable fees, that are actually quite cheaper than many other attorneys in other practice areas. -- and many of us charge fixed fees, not hourly, which can also save you a lot of money.
As an attorney who practices more than one area of law, i think you should ask the attorney about their experience with the type of case you have. Most attorneys, including my firm, offer a free consultation where you can judge the attorney and ask questions as they evaluate your case.
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