Finance Options for Clients

I just learned about various lenders that provide loans to clients that need help paying for government filing fees and attorneys fees related to their immigration cases. This is fantastic and important news to share with your clients and with colleagues. I cannot vouch for any of these companies, but I would love to hear feedback from anyone who has experience working with them.

The following information below comes directly from AILA’s website as Document Number 20121738

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“Helping Clients Finance Their Cases

The Rules of Professional Conduct say a lawyer can advance costs to a client or “may pay court costs and expenses of litigation on behalf of [an indigent] client.” ABA Model Rule 1.8(e). But a lawyer cannot—nor should she—fund all clients’ cases. All too often, we resort to payment plans for low-income clients, making the law firm a debt collector with a generally uncalculated administrative burden and creating a potential conflict of interest between the lawyer and client if the client has trouble paying in the future.

There are other options besides payment plans that can take the lawyer out of the financial part of the case, get the firm paid quicker, and permit the firm to work solely on the legal issues. Here are six lenders your law firm and client can work with to fund a case. They each work a little differently:

  1. Capital Good Fund is a nonprofit lender designed to help immigrants. They lend in six states: Rhode Island, Florida, Massachusetts, Delaware, Illinois, and Texas. Immigration loans range from $2,000 to $20,000 at 12 percent interest. The lender will accept regular bank statements as proof of income (meaning even under-the-table employment may qualify).
  2. Mission Asset Fund is a nonprofit lender that gives no interest microloans to immigrants for their USCIS filing fees. These loans are designed for pro bono clients who need some way to spread out the expense of the filing fee, but they have the added benefit of helping clients build credit history.
  3. Self-Help Federal Credit Union offers microloans for DACA (up to $800 at 15 percent) and citizenship (up to $1,000 at 17.7 percent) cases. The applicant would need to be eligible for membership at the credit union and become a member. They direct applicants to contact a local branch and have branches in California, Illinois, and Wisconsin.
  4. iQualify Lending is a for-profit lender in all 50 states that lends to clients of lawyers in 10 practice areas, including immigration. iQualify has an invoicing and collections offering to law firms that helps lawyers outsource collecting from clients, as well. It only works with law firms, but clients will have to qualify for the loan, and it may require more income and proof of ability to pay than the nonprofits.
  5. Flexxbuy is a for-profit lender in most states that finances legal fees of up to $50,000 starting at 5.99 percent interest rate. They work with a variety of financers, similar to applying for credit at a car dealership. Lawyers will get paid in full within 72 hours and Flexxbuy lends to clients with low credit scores.
  6. Justice for Me is a new lender focusing on legal services in Texas, Florida, and Colorado that offers clients a line of credit in the amount the lawyer has estimated the case will cost. The lawyer bills Justice for Me, and the client pays Justice for Me. Clients can either select a lawyer through Justice for Me’s network of lawyers or work with a lawyer the client found themselves. It’s a new model in expansion mode. There’s currently only a handful of immigration lawyers in its network.

Loans Solve Some Problems, But Not All

To get a loan, a client must prove sufficient income to make the payment or have a co-signer. Each has an online application process that the firm can work with the client to complete and non-online processes. All lenders will likely require a social security number and a bank account.

Clients borrowing with a lender solves two problems lawyers often have. First, many lawyers are poor bill collectors. Second, many lawyers are poor judges of a potential client’s ability to pay, because they don’t ask for proof of financial ability to pay or check the past record of payments (i.e., credit checks). In other words, this can solve some client-selection issues and get a firm paid quicker.

Finally, if you implement financing and still find too many of your potential clients are unable to qualify for the loans, review your advertising and client referral channels to make sure you are accessing a client base that can sustain your firm. Assess your fees for whether it is the right amount per case type, by tracking your time, averaging it by case type, and analyzing your overhead. Review your caseload to ensure your pro bono commitments are manageable. Alternatively, you could consider creating a nonprofit to offer legal services to this client base and find financing for their cases through grants and donations instead.

Cite as AILA Doc. No. 20121738.”

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