Immigration Lawyer Ethics

Immigration is governed by "Immigration and Nationality Act," and it is codified in Title 8 of the United States Code, beginning at 8 USC 1101. Regulations pertaining to immigration are in Title 8 of the Code of Federal Regulations, beginning at 8 CFR 1.1. If you represent immigrants at the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) or the EOIR (Executive Office for Immigration Review), then you are governed by the Rules of Professional Conduct for those agencies. Those rules were revised on January 19, 2017.

USCIS & EOIR. The USCIS Rules of Professional Conduct are recited at 8 CFR 292.3, primarily incorporating the EOIR Rules at 8 CFR 1003.102.

How Different are the Rules? Among the rules that may catch you by surprise are the duty to correct past false statements, even you believed them at the time; engaging in "obnoxious conduct;" making "frivolous" arguments. You can be disciplined for failure to meet a deadline, for not filing the Notice of Entry of Appearance, engaging in a pattern or practice of failing to submit accurate forms, or repeatedly using boilerplate arguments that have no relationship to the client's case.

Who may represent immigrants? Attorneys admitted in any state may represent immigrants. Under certain circumstances, so may law students, law graduates, and even certain accredited representatives of certain nonprofit organizations. See 8 CFR 1292.1.

Representation in federal courts. When you take your client's case to the federal courts, first of all remember that each federal district court requires separate admission from your state court and from each other. Second, each has its own rules of professional conduct too. California district courts generally follow the California State Bar Rules of Professional Conduct.

Disciplinary ramifications. In today's law practice, if you are disciplined in any court or agency, you can expect a fast moving reciprocal discipline in all other jurisdictions that you are admitted in, or where you practice.