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THE PERILS OF HIRING A NON-ATTORNEY

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In this week’s article, I want to talk about something that has been bothering me for many years now. It’s actually a reason why I expanded my practice to the Thai and other Asian communities; and that is, this troublesome idea that people would trust a non-lawyer to give them legal advice and to hire these people to prepare their immigration forms. For years now, I have talked about these “non-attorneys”, which include notaries, “tanats”, paralegals, tax preparers and just regular people giving their “friends” advice.  Let’s get this straight: ONLY A LAWYER IS AUTHOURIZED TO GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.  All the non-lawyers I mentioned earlier who give such advice, do so against the law. They can be prosecuted!  But what’s worse is that they are possibly jeopardizing your case! I know what I’m telling you may be controversial and that I’ll be hated by these non-lawyers that I am talking about, but if you know me, I’m not one to shy away from controversy, especially when it comes to doing the right thing and helping people.  The Thai community has been taken advantage for too long!  I'm here to help! On my website (WWW.JC4LAW.COM) you can read more about other areas of the law to be cautious about as well as read actual client letters telling you of their horror stories. My clients have been gracious enough to allow me to post because they understand that there are others out there that have been through similar experiences with non-lawyers. Luckily for them, I was able to fix their problems. My hope is that people who read this take heed because I fear that one day, a client will come to me after their non-lawyer makes a critical error and there can’t be anything done to fix it, either by me or any other lawyer.

Lawyer vs Non-Lawyer?

Like I mentioned before, only a lawyer is legally authorized to give legal advice. All others are not allowed to do so. The law forbids these non-lawyers to do so because the practice of law is detailed and strict on regulations, codes, and other rules, all of which exist to protect the public.  A lawyer is a sworn official of the judicial system. We are educated on the law and bound by rules and ethical codes. A non-lawyer has none of these requirements. Non-lawyers include notaries, “Tanats”, paralegals, friends, those people on websites like Facebook, etc. who say they “went to law school” or “are lawyers in Thailand”, etc. (A person who graduates law school has a juris doctorate, but is not a lawyer. To be a lawyer, you must take and pass the Bar Exam! Also, in order to legally practice law here in the United States, you must be licensed in the United States and in the jurisdiction of where you intend to pracice!) These non-lawyers may know how to fill out some forms, maybe some law, but they are not under a duty of continuing education like we lawyers are. Cases are more than just simply filling out forms; depending on your specific situation, it is about planning. Those friends who give you advice, they may mean well, but their advice may end up hurting you. I’ve heard the ‘well, their case is just like mine, so if I do the same thing they did and fill out the same form, it should be okay’. That’s just not true. The reason is because no two cases or exactly alike. What might have worked for them, might not work for you. A deviation in facts, even a slight one, can result it a great divide in how immigration considers the evidence presented. You never really know what you’re friend is not telling you.  For all these people: tanats, paralegals, friends, etc…be wary when someone gives you legal advice but aren’t willing to put their names on your forms.  (After all, on immigration forms, immigration asks for the name and contact information of anybody who helps prepare the forms for the applicant or petitioner). Question to yourself why these people don’t put their information on your form?  The answer is (1) they know what they are doing is illegal and/or (2) they don’t want to be responsible later if something bad happens to you and your case.  (Which I’ve heard before – ‘Oh I’m not responsible”). Every reputable lawyer you retain will put their full name and contact information on your form.  Not just me, but every lawyer!  If there happens to be some mistake, the lawyer can fix it. Go see an attorney! Any attorney. We are bound by certain rules and regulations. We know the law. We are required to keep up with the most recent changes in the law. Trust me when I say, by paying a little more, you get a lot more! Rest assured that your case will be handled correctly by me, and other reputable attorneys.

THINK ABOUT WHY THE NON-LAWYER ADVISES YOU TO DO SOMETHING

If you don’t take anything out of this article, please just take this: question the advice of the non-attorney. Attorneys are taught year one of law school about relevancy. That is, why is something important or necessary in order to prove or resolve an issue.  Everything you submit to immigration should be relevant to your case. For example, if you receive an RFE (Request for Evidence) and the immigration officer is asking you to send evidence of joint assets in a marital case, that means that they need you to prove that you and your spouse are truly married; that you two have a bona-fide marriage. Any evidence you have which would support your bona-fide marriage would be considered relevant and important – send it! Here are some misconceptions, untruths, and lies I’ve heard non-lawyers advice:

NON-LAWYER: “If you have a 2-year conditional green card, you cannot get divorced before you renew it”

JC FACT: This is absolutely not true! If it was, many people would have to endure being married to someone they no longer love and want to be married to just to get their 10 year green card! The truth is, Federal law allows single petitioners to file for removal of conditions, provided they apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. I have done this many times before so it can be done.

NON-LAWYER: “You must have life insurance so you can show immigration you have a real marriage”

JC FACT: No, that is not true. Having life insurance is great, but you should not go out and get it just for the sake of having it for immigration purposes. Not only is this fraudulent, it isn't necessary. There are countless married couples where both husband and wives are U.S. citizens, have been married 10-20-30 years, yet do not have life insurance! Life insurance is just one example of evidence tending to show a bona fide marital relationship, but it is not the only one. Question why these people tell you that you need life insurance. It’s either because they are (1) misinformed themselves or (2) have ulterior motives such as they get a “commission” from those unscrupulous insurance agents for the referral!  Sorry, but I’m calling you agents out too!

These are just some examples of things I want my readers to be aware of. I hope that you take heed of my advice – to question whether trusting a non-lawyer with something so important as immigration, which can affect your life, is the right choice or not, and to question if what the non-lawyer tells you, actually makes sense. For more examples of dangerous pitfalls to avoid and other horror stories of those who have gone to non-lawyers, you can check out my website – in Thai and English!

As always, if you have any questions still left unanswered or you have questions regarding other legal issues, or even if you have comments, please email me at: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., my office at (818) 846-5639, or my Thai-speaking assistant at (818) 505-4921. Also, be sure to visit our website at: WWW.JC4LAW.COM, now presented to you in both English and Thai!

 

Disclaimer: The information contained herein have been prepared for informational purposes only and are not to be considered legal advice unless otherwise specified. If you have a specific question regarding your personal case, please contact the Law Offices of Joseph Chitmongran for a full consultation. Past success does not guarantee future success. Contact the office for a legal opinion about your case.