Does your attorney claim that they are an expert in their field of law? Here’s why you should be concerned if an attorney, specifically in the field of Immigration Law, states that they are an “expert,” “specialize in” or have “expertise” in what they are doing.
In the practice of law, there are various ways to evaluate the knowledge and competency of an attorney. In the State of Florida, the Florida Bar has established a voluntary program approved by the Florida Supreme Court to aid the public in choosing an attorney. The Florida Bar is the third largest bar association in the United States, which licenses, regulates, and disciplines attorneys in the state. Board Certification is the highest level of evaluation by The Florida Bar of the competency and experience of attorneys in an area of law approved for certification. Attorney Michael A. Harris has had his experience and competency rigorously evaluated and is among a group of Florida lawyers who are allowed to refer to themselves as specialists or experts and to indicate that they are Board Certified Specialists in the field of Immigration and Nationality Law.
To become board certified in Immigration and Nationality Law by the Florida Bar, a lawyer must achieve the following:
(a) Minimum Period of Practice. This means that the lawyer has been engaged in the practice of law for at least 5 years.
(b) Substantial Involvement. Be able to demonstrate substantial involvement in the practice of immigration and nationality law, meaning that the lawyer has devoted 40 percent or more of their practice to matters in which issues of immigration and nationality law are significant factors and in which the lawyer has had substantial and direct participation in those issues, such as:
(1) the representation of clients before the USCIS, CBP, and/or ICE through either the preparation of petitions and applications for immigration benefits and discretionary relief or the appearance as counsel at deferred inspections, adjustment of status, and other interviews;
(2) the representation of clients before the EOIR Immigration Courts during exclusion, deportation, removal, asylum only, bond proceedings, and appeals;
(3) the representation of clients before the U.S. Department of Labor through the preparation of Labor Certification Applications, LCAs, and such other DOL applications, petitions, and processes as are required in the law as a prerequisite for immigration benefits;
(4) the representation of clients before the Department of State in matters pertaining to the consular processing of visa applications; and
(5) the representation of clients in matters of original and appellate jurisdiction before United States district courts and United States courts of appeals concerning immigration and nationality matters.
(c) Peer Review. Each attorney must have 5 attorneys who are neither relatives nor current associates or partners, as references to attest to their reputation for substantial involvement and competence in the field of immigration and nationality law, as well as their character, ethics, and reputation for professionalism. No less than 1 reference shall be board certified in immigration and nationality law.
(d) Education. It is required that each attorney complete 50 credit hours of approved continuing legal education in immigration and nationality law during the 3-year period immediately preceding the date of application.
(e) Examination. The attorney must pass a written examination designed to demonstrate sufficient knowledge, skills, proficiency, and professionalism in the field of immigration and nationality law to justify the representation of special competence to the legal profession and the public.
Further, today 6 percent of all Florida Bar licensed attorneys are board certified. Unlike in the medical field, where according to some as many as 90 percent of doctors are board certified, this is not the same for Florida Bar Board Certified Specialists. In fact, in the field of immigration law, currently less than 1 percent of licensed Florida Bar attorneys are certified experts in this field. To verify Mr. Harris’ certification as a board certified specialist on the Florida Bar website, please click here. It is important to be wary of an attorney who states that they are an expert or specialize in immigration law — unless they can demonstrate that they are certified by a recognized bar, other legal association, or a court of law.
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