Immigration Corner | How to prepare for a consultation with an immigration lawyer
Dear Ms Powell,
I read your last article about how to choose a representative for an application for permanent residence. I found that very informative. I'm following your instructions to make sure that the representative is authorised by the Canadian government. I found out that the lawyer is authorised, and he charges a fee for the consultation. Is that a standard practice? I'm not sure what to expect and how to really prepare for the meeting. I'm a little nervous and want it to go well. Can you provide a guideline to help me with my preparation?
Thank you for your feedback and your questions. I always welcome hearing from readers like you. Being prepared for a consultation with a lawyer is one of the best things you can do for yourself and your family. You will save time and money by being organised and having a systematic approach to your meeting. Most lawyers charge a fee for the consultation, but some will offer you a free initial consultation. If you are granted a free initial consultation, then be sure not to miss that appointment. Lawyers offer a service, and so, you are usually billed according to the amount of time that they spend with you.
Being prepared will save both you and the lawyer valuable time. The more prepared you are, the less time it will take for the lawyer to understand your background and be better able to come up with the best immigration plan for you and your family.
Meeting preparation tips
1. Client information form: Your lawyer will most likely have a client information sheet with standard questions to assess your eligibility for the various immigration programmes. I recommend that you obtain that form before your meeting, complete it, and return it to your lawyer in advance of the meeting. If you did not receive the form in advance, I recommend that you attend the meeting at least 15 minutes before the scheduled time as they may give the form to you at the meeting.
2. Identification documents: Your lawyer is required to verify your identity. Therefore, you should bring your driver's licence, passport and birth certificate to the meeting.
3. Bring all supporting documents: Make copies of all the documents pertaining to your case. Since you are thinking about a permanent residence application to Canada, you should bring a copy of your rÈsumÈ, degree or diploma, recommendation letters from past employers, proof of settlement funds, previous communications with the Canadian government/embassy and any other documents to substantiate your case. You should go prepared to give these copies to your lawyer for review. If you don't have these documents, do not worry, you can provide them at a later date. Your lawyer will give you a list of the documents that will be required once retained.
4. Be organised: What are some of the questions you want answered? Make notes of your currently legal problems or concerns in advance. If you were rejected for a visa before, then make a summary of the past experiences and notes outlining the problem. The lawyer must have those details in order to decide what is important and how to move forward in your best interests.
5. Be honest. The information you provide your lawyer is protect by attorney-client privilege rules and laws (subject to certain limited exclusions) so the information you provide your lawyer will be kept confidential. It is important that you give an honest account of your situation and legal problems, if any. This includes details about other family members, even issues that may be sensitive to you or your family. Remember that the conversation your have with your lawyer is private and cannot be discussed with others without your permission.
6. Retainer fee and cost: Once your lawyer has heard the details of your case, he or she will be ready to discuss fees, costs, and a retainer agreement. You should be prepared to do so at this meeting. Ask questions about the various payment methods available to you.
7. Ask questions: This meeting is the time to ask questions about the process and to get a clear understanding about your case. Remember that you are paying for your lawyer's time. It is more cost-effective to ask several questions at once as you may be charged for each call every time you need to ask a question. Remember lawyers charge for their time.
8. Make notes: When you ask a question, make notes of the answers so that you will have the answers for future reference. This could save you additional time and expense.
9. Keep a file: Keep a copy of all documents that you have presented to your lawyer. This includes copies of all letters and documents prepared on your case. Your lawyer will no doubt provide you with a retainer agreement/contract, as well as a use-of-representative form. Ensure that you keep a copy for your records.
10. Listen to your lawyer: Finally, Listen carefully to your lawyer. This is the most important step.Think carefully about what your lawyer requires you to do in order to achieve your goals. The lawyer's judgements and advice are based on legal training and experience. Sometimes the advice may not be what you like to hear, but remember that the lawyer's advice is based on the existing laws and rules at the time of your consultation. Laws and rules change all the time. You could be qualified under one programme one year, and the next year, the rules change ,and you no longer qualify. Many times people get older or programmes become full or are cancelled. Or the opposite could be true, you may not be qualified one year and the next, you could be qualified due to a new programme or rule. Another reason could be that you have improved your education, gained more work experience, or now have a family member living in Canada.
Just remember that the advice you receive at any given time will be based on the current law, rules and your situation at the time of consultation. Therefore, if you qualify at a particular time, then you should instruct your lawyer to proceed immediately before the rules or your situation changes.
- Deidre S. Powell is a lawyer, mediator and notary public who is a member of the Law Society of Ontario and the General Legal Council of Jamaica with an office located in Ottawa, Ontario. Her areas of practice are in immigration, commercial, real estate, and family law and administration of estates. She is on the roster of Mediators for Ottawa, Toronto, and the Dispute Resolution Foundation of Jamaica. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Subject line: Immigration.