This is likely going to be the most honest attorney blog post you will ever read. If you’re reading this, you probably have read many attorney blog posts in the past. You could be a potential client, someone interested in the law, or perhaps another attorney looking for insight (or to steal a topic or two). Typically, they provide some summary of a new development, a legal strategy, or a story from the attorney’s practice.
This, however, is not a typical blog post.
Rather, this is a reader’s guide to blog posts, which includes analysis of a lot of common elements. It provides some things to consider for any reader, and follow-up questions for anyone thinking of hiring an attorney in part based on a blog post.
To be clear, this is not an anti-blog post. Blogs can be extremely useful and interesting. Of course, our firm blogs and I have benefitted from reading others’ posts. This provides some considerations to include with any post you read.
Why write? Money.
First, never forget the main reason attorneys write blogs but seldom acknowledge directly- to generate business. Personally, I enjoy blogging, but I would enjoy going on a bike ride (or spending time with my family, or watching sports) even more. I am also glad to have provided some helpful insight to the public and other attorneys. Nonetheless, I am not so egotistical to think I absolutely must share my thoughts on visa retrogression with the world simply as a public service.
Writing blogs have many benefits for attorneys- most of which hopefully generate business. First, the posts themselves are an opportunity for writers to present themselves to would-be clients or referrals while demonstrating their knowledge of the law and how to navigate the bureaucratic mess that immigration can often be. Second, the more people read a blog post, the better that firm’s webpage will do in internet search results. Simply by reading this post, you are helping someone looking for an immigration firm online find us (thanks!).
Am I discussing the financial motivations of blogging as a public service to the blog-reading public? If your answer is yes, please re-read the first paragraph of this section.
Rather, I hope that by writing a very unique blog post many people will read it- helping our search engine optimization goals. Also, if would-be clients or referring attorneys think that this post demonstrates I am a smart and exceedingly honest attorney who thinks outside the box, so much the better.
Newsflash- not all clients are sympathetic.
A large number of blog posts involve stories with extremely sympathetic clients and/or family members. Immigration blogs are full of loving children, crying parents, victims of crimes or violence, and earnest young couples who are trying to stay together. If someone has committed a crime, it is usually very minor, or happened a number of years ago.
That’s fine- but what if you have three DUIs, cheated on your spouse, and even your parents think you can be kind of a jerk sometimes?
To be clear, our firm has had many wonderful clients and I personally like the vast majority of people I have represented, including many who have participated in otherwise objectionable activities. In fact, like many immigration attorneys, I entered this area of law in large part so that I could work directly with clients.
Nonetheless, it’s important to make sure an attorney is prepared to represent clients who do not initially appear as sympathetic. First, clients who have done something highly objectionable will still have friends or family members who love and need them. Second, even otherwise good people make mistakes and have redeeming qualities that may not be immediately apparent.
Perhaps more importantly, personality is unimportant in many immigration matters. Unpleasant people still have legal rights which deserve protection. Further, immigration law is often arbitrary or has very little to do with the worth of the person involved. Two otherwise identical events can have drastically different immigration effects depending on when they occurred. Criminal convictions under identical statutes can have widely varying consequences based on only one or two different words in the charging documents.
Also, much of immigration law is not really about immigrants, but how they help U.S. interests. Foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens can file for residency not because they are better than those who marry someone who is undocumented, but rather because we want U.S. citizens to be able to live with their spouses. Employment-based visas are not designed to be nice to foreign workers, but rather to meet the needs of U.S. businesses.
Therefore, please realize that while attorneys love to help clients with sympathetic stories, clients should look for attorneys who will defend them to the extent the law no matter how likeable they are.
Attorney success is only part of the story.
Usually stories about sympathetic clients also focus on the attorneys somehow saving them from a harsh immigration finding and often a mistake of a prior attorney. Keep in mind, however, that blogs are designed to generate business, and almost no one will try to attract clients by describing the cases they lost or decided not to do anything.
Attorneys can, and do, lose, even if they did a good job and the clients deserved to win. For example, I have lost multiple cases at one level, and then later won on appeal. Did I somehow magically become a better attorney while writing the appeal? Of course not. Rather, the officials at the lower level were wrong, despite my best efforts to convince them of the right interpretation of the law.
Often, attorneys who take the most challenging cases will have lower success rates than those who do not. I have taken very difficult cases, often from other attorneys who were in over their heads. While I have won a fair portion of those cases, I certainly could have claimed a higher success rate if I turned them away.
Finally, often clients are best served by an attorney willing to do nothing. Frequently, immigration filings can put the person at risk of removal or simply be a waste of money. Again, honesty and the ability to assess the likelihood of success of a strategy through experience with a range of cases is key.
While a story about the times the attorney decided the best course of action was to not do anything might make for a lousy blog post, it can be a sign of an excellent attorney.
A blog post does not make an attorney an expert, and experts still must explain the law to clients.
Often some blog posts cover areas which are extremely basic to most other immigration attorneys, but may not be understood by the general public. Clients should not assume that simply because an attorney has written a basic blog post on an issue, he or she knows substantially more than someone who has not. Would-be clients should still consider an attorney’s other qualifications and ability to present a case effectively, not just a basic blog post.
Alternately, posts will discuss very technical aspects of the law. Usually those posts are not designed for the general public, but often other attorneys. If these technical points can highlight something other attorneys did not think about, it may lead to more referrals or at least a higher readership.
If you are a would-be client whose case involves one of those highly technical posts- please make sure your attorney can explain what it says and how it impacts you in ways you can understand. It is important for clients to be able to understand how the law applies to their case. This requires an attorney who can explain the law well- and not just to other attorneys.
Again, our blog will use some of these elements, and I have benefitted from others’ posts which include them as well. People who are interested in immigration law should certainly keep reading blogs- but keep these considerations in mind.
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