U.S. Citizen Services
American Consular Officers abroad are prohibited from giving legal advice and from acting as agents, attorneys or in a fiduciary capacity on behalf of U.S. citizens. American citizens traveling or residing in foreign countries are subject to the laws and regulations of that country.
Selecting an Attorney
In retaining the services of a foreign attorney concerning a private dispute abroad, the following guidelines may assist you in protecting your interests. See the List of Attorneys.
When you receive a list of attorneys, it is recommended that you contact several attorneys, briefly describing the nature of the services you desire. Before you decide which attorney to engage, request a written schedule of fees generally charged for the services you need, inquire whether the attorney is fluent in the English language, and become acquainted with a particular attorney. Do not submit any documents or funds until you are certain that the attorney understands your problem and is willing to handle your case.
How to Deal with Your Foreign Attorney
Always research the attorney's qualifications and experience. Find out how the attorney plans to represent you. Ask specific questions and expect the attorney to explain the legal activities in a language that you can understand. Ask what fees the attorney charges and how the attorney expects to be paid. Some attorneys may expect to be paid in advance; some may demand payment after each action they take on your behalf, refusing to take further action until they are paid.
You may wish to ask the attorney to send you monthly reports, even though no real developments have occurred, simply to satisfy your doubts about the progress of the case. Have your attorney analyze your case, giving you the positive and negative aspects and probable outcome. Do not expect your attorney to give a simple answer to a complex legal problem.
Be sure that you understand the technical language in any contract or other legal document prepared by your attorney before you sign it. Keep your attorney fully informed of any new developments in the case. If you need to provide complex or technical documents to your attorney, you may wish to consider having the documents translated into the native language.
An elementary knowledge of English may not be enough to enable the attorney to understand the documents you provide. Tell the attorney every relevant fact in order to get the best representation of your interests. Find out how much time the attorney anticipates the case may take to complete. Request copies of all letters and documents prepared on your behalf.
Complaints against Foreign Attorneys
If the services of your attorney prove unsatisfactory, you may address your complaints to the local (foreign) bar association. We would appreciate receiving copies of any such complaints.