Why Do I Need a Legal Brief?
Last week we talked about the importance of having a lawyer in attendance at the asylum interview. I
pointed out that many firms do not send a lawyer to accompany their clients at the interview. Many
firms seem to believe that since the applicant’s chances of a grant at the asylum office are low anyway,
it’s best not to waste the lawyer’s time coming to the interview. In my view, this is a big mistake. It’s
unfair to the applicant, who is likely to have a much more stressful interview without their lawyer
present. Furthermore, just having a lawyer at the interview can increase your chances of success at the
asylum office. Having the lawyer present sends the message to the asylum officer that the lawyer takes
the case seriously and believes in it enough to invest their personal time.
Another place where many firms try and save time and expense is on the legal brief. A legal brief is a
document included in the asylum application that outlines the lawyer’s legal argument for an asylum
claim. In order to qualify for asylum in the United States, there are some very specific criteria that need
to be met. It’s not enough to say that something bad happened to you in your home country, or that
you’re afraid to go back there. The asylum officer has to be persuaded that you meet certain
requirements as far as the reasons you were harmed, who harmed you, the severity of that harm,
whether your government is capable and willing of protecting you from the people who harmed you (or
is itself the one who harmed you), etc.
When you apply for asylum, there are certain esoteric legal issues involved. One cannot possibly know
or understand all the issues unless one has training and experience. It’s not enough to simply “tell your
story” – you have to be able to explain how the facts of your story qualify you as a refugee under
international law. This is where the legal brief comes in. A well-crafted legal brief will summarize the
facts of your case and explain why these facts ought to qualify you for asylum.
In the United States, legal decisions are based on the way that similar cases have been decided in the
past. This is a system called case law or common law and it is different from the way laws are applied in
many other countries including China. In order to make a legal argument, one needs to become familiar
with similar past cases, and to appeal to those cases as one makes one’s argument. Understanding this
body of case law is a large part of a lawyer’s expertise.
Alexandre Law Firm maintains a dedicated staff to craft a customized legal brief for each and every one
of our asylum cases. A typical brief is 10-15 pages in length and references dozens of precedent
decisions. The asylum office appreciates the inclusion of a legal brief because it makes their job easier.
Rather than determining from the applicant’s personal statement what issues to explore in the
interview, the legal brief tells the asylum officer ahead of time exactly what argument the lawyer is
making for this particular case. This makes it much easier for them to decide what questions to ask.
Furthermore, when the officer is writing up their decision after the interview, they can use language
from the brief in their assessment.
Besides making the officer’s job easier as they adjudicate the case, a legal brief is also an indicator of
quality legal representation. Earlier we talked about how the presence of a lawyer at the interview can
help enhance the perceived legitimacy of an asylum case. Similarly, simply including a legal brief helps
set a case apart from the majority of cases which do not include this sort of documentation. Although I
did see some firms include legal briefs while serving as an asylum officer, very few firms approached the
thoroughness and attention to detail I see in Alexandre Law’s briefs. Our briefs are just one more way
we use to distinguish ourselves as a professional, full service immigration law firm.