This a great question, especially to ask a lawyer. The answer you get may reflect more on the attorney’s need for your business than on your well-being. Nevertheless, let me take a shot at a somewhat more objective response.
In immigration cases, lawyers provide the following benefits:
- In-depth knowledge of the law. A lawyer will likely spot problem issues that the average person would not, as well as be aware of requirements that are not obvious. In addition, some issues are just plain difficult to understand without a legal background and a knowledge of immigration law as a whole.
- Familiarity with the process. An attorney who has been through the same process before will be able to set realistic expectations for you, alert you to when the process seems off track, and provide a sense of confidence as to the success of the case.
- Organizational skills. Getting all the evidence together and presenting it in an effective manner is not always easy to do on your own.
- Advocacy skills. If something does go wrong, a lawyer who understands the law and the process is more likely to be able to help you save the case.
- Savings in time. Regardless of the type of case, it takes a lot of time to read and understand the relevant instructions and regulations, complete the paperwork correctly, and organize the supporting documents.
- Administrative back up. Your lawyer will be receiving duplicates of all the notices from USCIS, to be able to confirm with you that you receive them and are aware of important dates.
Supposing you have a squeaky-clean case, are good at following instructions, are well organized, have extra time, and feel confident in preparing the documents and presenting yourself, then by all means, go for it. In an ideal world, attorneys would not be needed for immigration–or other legal–processes.
Even so, you should be prepared for notices getting lost in the mail, or getting an officer who is grumpy or doesn’t understand an important provision of the law. Those things happen occasionally. Many times, they are not fatal to an application, but they can add a lot of delay and frustration.
My advice, when asked the title question, is normally for you to look over the documents and measure your own comfort level. For comparison, I used to do my own tax returns, but eventually they became a little too complicated and a little too time consuming to be worth it. If you are still not sure what to do after looking over the process carefully, then talk to a lawyer for more information.
P.S. If you are close to hiring an immigration lawyer but need a little nudge, try googling “US immigration horror stories“.