Issue link: http://ailahub.aila.org/i/69561
What Do You Do When the Damage is Done? Straight Talk on How to Advocate for Your Clients While Maintaining Your Integrity by Christina Corbaci & Hannah Kubica Y USCIS, Immigration Court, or another government agency. You have now taken over the case. However, in the course of representation you learn information about your client that leads you to believe he or she may in fact be ineligible for the benefit sought. What do you do? ou represent an individual who has been previously represented by counsel. The prior attorney filed an application for an immigration benefit, either with 1. QUESTION YOUR CLIENT: Confirm the circumstances sur- rounding the prior attorney's decision to file the applica- tion. Did your client disclose the conduct or facts that give rise to the ineligibility? Did the attorney ask? It is important to determine whether the attorney misguided the client as to their eligibility or whether the client misled the attorney. The answer to these questions may help you determine your level of trust in your client. 2. DETERMINE WHETHER YOU CAN PROCEED WITH REPRESENTATION: Will you be asked at any point to make a representation re- garding this issue of eligibility? Is the issue arguable? If you trust that your client is willing to be forthcoming if asked about the conduct, and your client under- stands the consequences of proceeding with the application, you may want to go forward. Make it clear to your client that, knowing this informa- tion about their prior conduct, you cannot make any represen- tation otherwise to USCIS or the Court. In some circum- stances you will decide you cannot go forward with the rep- resentation and will need to devise a strategy to withdraw the application while minimizing any damage to the client. 3. EXPLAIN THE RISKS OF GOING FORWARD: In some circumstances you may be able to go forward with the representation. In this case, make it clear to your client that should she be asked questions about the conduct in question she will have to be forthcoming, as would you. You must be confident that your client would answer truthfully should these questions arise. You must trust that your client understands and is willing to accept the risks associated with any possible outcome. 4. PREPARE YOUR CLIENT: If your client will be appearing for an interview or a court hearing, make sure they are properly prepared to address the issues. Prepare them for all the questions they may be asked and make sure that they can articulate the circumstances giving rise to the ground of ineligibility in a truthful yet sympathetic manner. Your role may be to help your client minimize the damage caused by the conduct and rehabilitate herself if possible. While your instinct may be to protect your clients, especially where you feel they may have been victimized or the govern- ment' ings overcome your duties to the profession. Your honesty, trustworthiness, and fitness as a lawyer is of the utmost im- portance as are your duties and obligations under the rules of professional conduct in your jurisdiction. s application of the law is harsh, do not let these feel- Christina Corbaci and Hannah Kubica are associates at Joyce & Associates, P.C. in Boston, MA, a boutique firm that specializes in complex immigration matters. PICKING UP CONTINUED FROM 1 >> file from the previous attorney seems complete, take the time to confirm dates, family relationships, work experience, and academic degrees. You may be surprised at what you find. • Record everything. Not one single file of the 300 I inherited from Lawyer X had case notes. When Lawyer X faded into the background aſter his conviction, so did his case strategies and notes of conversations with clients. Although it can be difficult and time-consuming, I try to leave each of my cases as though someone will take it over just as I took over Lawyer X's case. Whoever touches it next, be it my paralegal, my partner or another attorney, will know the who, what, where, when and most importantly, the WHY of each case. • Respect your colleagues. Lawyer X was not perfect. But neither am I. Seeing firsthand the errors of Lawyer X's ways and the consequences to both him and to his clients was a lesson in humility. Immigration law is a complex, crazy world where there is little room for error and much opportunity to commit it; your colleagues are your best resource and you should do everything in your power to obtain, and keep, their respect. The author is a partner at a small law firm. She practices exclusively immigration law. www.aila.org 2 !