I recently spoke with an EB-5 investor who was not happy with her immigration attorney (a lawyer I had never heard of). I asked the investor how she had selected the attorney. She replied “Avvo.com.” Unfortunately, this website, like a couple of other attorney review sites, can be manipulated by attorneys to generate false positive results. Let’s look at a few of these sites.
AVVO.com This is a Web 2.0-type site. The idea behind Web 2.0 is that you get other visitors to build the content for the site, which elevates your organic rankings and allows you to sell something or other to visitors. Lawyers’ scores on Avvo.com are the result of client reviews, reviews by colleagues, with additional points being scored according to the number of questions answered and articles written for the site. The problem is that lawyers can artificially inflate all of these factors (for example, by asking friendly clients and colleagues to write favorable reviews, etc.). Results on Avvo may or may not correspond with the true rating that attorney has in the eyes of their peers and clients. In the opinion of most lawyers, Avvo.com is the bastion of lawyers who are good at marketing rather than those who are good at lawyering. There are some relatively undistinguished EB-5 attorneys who are rated 10 on AVVO. Meanwhile some of the attorneys most respected by their peers have relatively low rankings (I just looked up two of the most experienced and respected EB-5 attorneys, and they have rankings of 6.8 and 6.6 respectively).
EB5investors.com Another Web 2.0 site. Lawyers are rated based simply on the number of investor questions they answer. That’s it. There is no attempt to rate the quality of answers. Even wrong answers (and I saw a couple when I popped in today) are counted toward the lawyer’s total.
SuperLawyers Another “award” that can be gamed. See http://pm.typepad.com/professional_marketing_bl/2006/09/marketers_laugh.html or http://www.post-gazette.com/business/legal/2011/04/18/Who-s-tops-Lawyer-ratings-multiply-but-confusion-rules/stories/201104180211.
So what should a client be looking at when evaluating lawyers? Well, the most respected published source is Martindale Hubbell (see Martindale.com). This site’s rating process is extensive and unbiased. One problem is that the review process is so time-consuming for the attorney being evaluated that many excellent attorneys don’t bother to put themselves through the evaluation process. So, lack of a good rating here does not disqualify the attorney from consideration. However, if an attorney has an “AV” rating from Martindale, you can be very well assured that he or she is an outstanding attorney.
Probably the best way to evaluate an EB-5 attorney is to review the attorney’s history of publications (not including self-publications) and speaking engagements. EB-5 is a close knit community where all the major players know each other and know how good they are, so only the best are asked to speak often at industry events and are published by third-party publishers (the American Immigration Lawyers Association (“AILA”) is the most prestigious).
Of course, there are many other factors you should look at when selecting a lawyer. Some are:
- Lawyer’s familiarity with your country of origin, its business environment and language
- Lawyer’s familiarity with cases similar to yours
- Extra services offered by lawyer
- Lawyer’s responsiveness to your inquiries
- Personal chemistry with lawyer
- Terms of engagement letter
- Cost of Services
If you need help selecting an attorney, let us know. After six years in this industry, and dozens of EB-5 conferences attended, we know who’s good and who’s not so good, and we will be happy to advise you at no charge.