Questions to ask your attorney...

Now that you have decided to retain an attorney to assist you with your legal matter, there are several questions you should ask as you seek legal counsel.  The following questions and answers describe our firm and the service we provide to each of our clients to ensure your case is handled expeditiously with the professional competence you deserve.  

  1. What are your legal credentials?
    Are you an attorney licensed to practice law?
    Are you an attorney licensed to practice in your state?
    What courts are you licensed to practice before?
    Have you ever been disciplined or suspended from the practice of law?

    When seeking legal counsel, it is critical that you hire a licensed attorney who is qualified to practice law where your case will be handled. In the immigration field, many individuals claim to be legal consultants or paralegals who will charge for filling in forms or translation services. If these individuals charge for legal advice of any kind, they could be breaking the law and should be reported. It is important that your attorney is licensed to practice before the Department of Homeland Security and Executive Office for Immigration Review. If your case may require an appeal, it is important that your attorney is admitted before the relevant Federal Courts, usually the Federal District Court or Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. If your case requires any appearance in State court, such as domestic violence protective orders or divorce proceedings, it is important that your attorney is admitted in your state by the Alaska Bar Association. This is also important in disciplinary actions as the Alaska Bar Association can only discipline attorneys who are licensed in Alaska.

    Rebecca Maxey is an attorney licensed by the Alaska Bar Association, and admitted to practice law in the state of Alaska, as well as the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, and the U.S. Supreme Court. As a licensed attorney in the States of Alaska, she is able to represent clients in matters of Alaska State law and federal proceedings, including cases before the Department of Homeland Security and Executive Office for Immigration Review. She has never been disciplined nor suspended from the practice of law in any forum.

  2. What experience do you have working in this field?
    How long have you been practicing in this field or area of law?
    Have you ever handled cases like mine before?

    Immigration law is a very specific and narrow area of law. When looking for an attorney to assist you in an immigration matter, it is helpful to seek an attorney who has experience handling cases such as yours. You may also want to ask if he or she has seen similar facts as yours, and how often he or she has appeared before the judges of the immigration court where your case will be heard, or the immigration office where you will be interviewed. You may wish to inquire as to which practice groups or professional organizations an attorney belongs to that are used to keep an attorney up to date on the rapidly changing developments and changes in the field of immigration law.

    Rebecca Maxey has been working exclusively in the field of immigration law since 1997, initially as a paralegal with two Alaska based law firms, and since 2000 as a licensed attorney. She is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association where she served a term as an Executive Officer for the its young lawyers division. She is also a member of the Immigration Section of the Alaska Bar Association, and the Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild. Over the last 12+ years she has represented over 1000 clients from more than -- countries in their successful quests for legal status in the United States. These individuals have included over 100 individuals in removal/deportation proceedings before the Immigration Court and over 100 asylum applicants.

  3. Who will be working on my case?

    Many times law firms will employ support staff to assist in the production of legal cases. These may include junior associates, paralegals, interns and other support staff from his or her firm to work on a case. It is important to inquire which aspects of your case the attorney will handle personally and how any support staff will be supervised. Be sure to ask the lawyer about the experience level and billing rates of anyone working on your case.

    Our office employs highly trained individuals who are employed as paralegals, law clerks, interns and translators to assist with information gathering and case production. These assistants are critical to the timely production and completion of our cases, and are fully supervised by the attorney they are appointed to. They are also held to the same levels required by our strict code of confidentiality.

  4. What are your fees?

    The subject of fees is very important to clients and law firms alike. It is very important that you understand the fee structure of a law firm and follow through on the agreed terms. During your initial consultation with a lawyer, the subject of fees should be addressed unless there is additional information needed to fully assess a case. Some immigration attorneys charge fixed fees for certain services like a fiancé petition or naturalization case. Other cases require hourly rates for legal services. Depending on your legal matter, you may be able to recover the fees you pay to your attorney from the opposing side because the fees are recoverable by statute or by contract, or from an employer based insurance program. Be sure you understand exactly how fees will be assessed before retaining an attorney. It is also important to understand that any estimate that a lawyer gives you is just that—an estimate based on an attorney’s assessment of your case, current immigration laws and policies, previous experience in handling similar cases, and the facts you provide. If you retain your attorney on anything other than a fixed fee basis, be sure to check in regularly to make sure that the fees are staying within the range that you expect them to be.

    Our offices charges a consultation fee for any initial immigration matter, except where the fee is waived before hand for existing clients involved in conjoining matters. We will normally be able to assess whether your case is appropriate for a flat fee or hourly fee at the initial consultation. This determination is normally based on the type of matter presented, and the complexity of the specific issues unique to each case. In addition to legal fees, you will be responsible for administrative costs such as copying, faxing, postage, government filing fees, travel expenses, bills for investigators, experts, court reporting services, etc. These are the normal fees assessed in the production of cases. We would review any unusual costs and fees with you for your approval.

  5. What can I do to help my case and minimize costs?

    There are often many things you can do to help your own case and minimize your attorney fees such as providing all relevant documents and information to your attorney, providing contact information for all persons relevant to the matter, and putting together a timeline of events related to the case. The time you spend doing these things is time your attorney does not have to spend, and this will ultimately save you money, especially when your case is being handled on an hourly basis.

  6. What are my chances of success?
    What are my alternatives outcomes
    What are my risks
    How long will it take my before my case is resolved?

    Even though your case may seem similar to others you have seen it is important to understand that each case is unique. Your lawyer should be able to lay out your options regarding your case, the types of applications you may be eligible for, and the chances each has in prevailing. But a lawyer cannot and should not guarantee a particular outcome. Ask your lawyer to identify for you the strengths and weaknesses of your case and to explain the pros and cons of each of pursuing each of the options he or she says you have. The answers to these questions may determine how you proceed with your immigration matter, depending on the specific facts and issues involved in your case – what applications you might pursue or how you might defend charges against you, and even whether you want to proceed with the matter at all.

    It’s also a good idea to ask your potential lawyer how long he or she thinks the case will take to resolve. Again, this will help you better understand how much time and money you could be investing in your legal matter. Keep in mind, though, that there are many variables that could prolong your case—especially in immigration where your attorney will not always be able to control what a government official may do.

  7. How will you keep me updated on the progress of my case?

    You should discuss with your attorney how you prefer to communicate regarding case status. Some clients prefer verbal updates by phone, some prefer email updates, while others prefer to receive a status update by mail. Be sure that your attorney is aware of your expectations in terms of responding to your calls and emails, updating you regarding the status of your case, and including you in substantive decisions about the handling of your matter. Keep in mind, though, that your attorney will likely charge you for any time you spend communicating by phone, email or correspondence about your case.

    It is our practice to forward copies of any applications, responses, and other correspondence regarding your case to you upon receipt. It is also our policy to return any telephone calls or emails by the end of the second business day or sooner. You are always free to call back if you have not heard from us within a reasonable period.


Law Offices of Rebecca L. Maxey, LLC
101 East Ninth Avenue, Suite 14-B
Anchorage, Alaska 99501
Phone: 907-272-6677
Fax: 907-272-6678