Okay, the quick and dirty: as most of you know, I have looooooong struggled with attorneys getting a referral fee for a client who selects a particular EB5 Regional Center AND then handling the legal work for the client. I have heard ALL the arguments:
- "It's okay as long as it's disclosed"
- "Clients don't care"
- "That's what EVERYONE does!"
You heard me rant and rave about this fundamental conflict, which I have likened to a fox yelling "I am coming in the henhouse" before he enters, with the net result for the chickens being the same. Despite my issues, my clients continue to hammer me over the head. They say:
- "Jose, you CAN'T hand us over to another lawyer, we want you!!"
- "WE DON'T CARE if you get a referral fee from the Regional Center!"
- "I trust your advice and want to deal with only YOU!"
Even the Regional Centers kid me about being a prima donna on this subject. Well, after 15 years of refusing to file immigration documents for EB-5 clients I refer to a Regional Center, I FINALLY figured out a solution with which I can live. Like the Regional Centers with which I work, I will keep 100% of the attorneys fees in trust until the I-526 is approved. If it is not approved, the client gets a full refund (except, of course, if they have not disclosed ineligibilities, e.g., prior convictions, etc.) Florida Bar rules prohibit contingency fee agreements for criminal and domestic matters, but there is nothing to stop my from saying that I will not get paid until the I-526 approval is confirmed. No tickee, no laundry.
Now: assuming I'm not the only one who conducts thorough due diligence on a Regional Center before referring a client...I challenge my AILA brethren to do the same.