Immigration Practice News
American Immigration Lawyers Association www.aila.org
Vol. 3 Issue 4 'THE IMPOSSIBLE DREAM'
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Picking Up the Pieces of an Abandoned Practice
This is a true story, written anonymously to respect the privacy of those involved.
attorney, was convicted of a felony in federal court and immediately suspended from the practice of law by our state bar. Enter yours truly, a "fresh" (I prefer "young") attorney starting my own immigration practice. I had two clients and my AILA practice toolbox (a pretty good start, I thought).
few years ago, Lawyer X, a well-liked and extremely successful immigration
Watch AILA's first animation short highlighting the plight immigrant entrepreneurs face when trying to keep themselves—and their businesses—in the United States.
I was establishing business contacts when I met two attorneys who had been designated to take on Lawyer X's clients. Neither of them practiced immigration law. Together, we started our own practice. Within the span of seven days, I went from having two clients to 300: 300 active cases; 300 new faces; 300 new fact patterns and new case histories; 300 clients whose previous attorney had been stripped of his ability to practice law as a result of his wrongdoing.
X and I individually sent a written notice to all of his clients explaining what had happened, who I was, and that I would be taking over all of Lawyer X's cases.
"Within the span of seven days, I went from having two clients to 300: 300 active cases; 300 new faces; 300 new fact patterns and new case histories; 300 clients whose previous attorney had been stripped of his ability to practice law as a result of his wrongdoing."
How do you pick up the pieces of a practice that has fallen apart?
Although it doesn't translate exactly to my situation, I looked to my state's equivalent of Model Rule of Professional Conduct 1.17 (Sale of Law Practice) for guidance. For example, Lawyer
Following that initial introduction, I used common sense to survive. I hope you never have a reason to spend hours on the phone with the State Bar ethics committee. But chances are that you will at some point in your career take over a case from another attorney. This is what I have learned:
• Do not take a case you cannot handle. I felt no shame in admitting to certain new clients that I was not experienced in their specific type of case and referred them elsewhere. Clients were appreciative of my honesty.
• Start from the beginning. Do not take for granted that the client is eligible for the benefit being sought. Do a new evaluation and analysis with
every new client. Even if the CONTINUED on pg.2 >>