In Canada, lawyers are also called Barristers (qualified to do court work) and Solicitors (office work). This is the same in Britain, Australia and New Zealand. In the USA lawyers are also called Attorneys. Always hire a lawyer / attorney / barrister & solicitor because consultants are generally much less educated, less competent, usually not insured for errors, usually not bound by a code of ethics, lack English writing skills, and are not allowed at Federal Court. (It is important to hire a lawyer who is expereienced in Canadian immigration.) In regard to honesty and law-breaking, many consultants have been arrested by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and gone to jail for immigration offences since 1989. If your consultant / agent was arrested you can be sure the police and immigration will look closely at all their files and your status may be in jeopardy. Whatever status you obtained may be cancelled. Warning: Many consultants and even suspended lawyers hold themselves out to be lawyers (e.g. their business cards and office signs say "law office" and some even lie about their status) so always check with the Law Society of the Canadian province your consultant works in (in Ontario it is the Law Society of Upper Canada , telephone 1-800-668-7380, extension 3315) to see if your counsel is really a lawyer in good standing. Or online go to www.lsuc.on.ca and look up "For the Public" then "Member Directory" and type the person's name. If a window does not appear showing that they are a lawyer, they aren't. Most consultants say they are cheaper than lawyers but in many cases they are more expensive. Those that are cheaper perform much lower quality and quantity of work. Since 1988 when he was an articling student Dr. Montgomery has seen many clients who were victimized by the sloppy and minimal work done on their behalf by consultants. These clients are on the verge of deportation when they find out that all along their "lawyer" was not really a lawyer, or that their consultant lacked the required legal knowledge and did not put in anywhere near the effort that a lawyer would. (Often by then it is too late to remedy the damage.) One clue for clients is that consultants are not allowed to acccept Legal Aid. Another clue is that the business card does not say "Barrister & Solicitor". Another clue is that the person also acts as the interpreter and works as an interpreter for other parties, be it another agent or the immigration department or the refugee board. Some interpreters also try to work as consultants and in Dr. Montgomery's experience they have ruined many cases because they know far less than they think they know. Recently it turned out that a consultant was himself a failed refugee claimant and was under removal order and arrest warrant from Immigration who were looking for him. (He was finally deported.) Canada Immigration and the Refugee Board officials will no longer deal with consultants who are not members of CSIC (Canadian Society of Immigration Consultants), but even CSIC members have recently been arrested and charged with immigration offences. To check on the status of your consultant phone CSIC at 416-572-2800 (then press "0").
Years ago there were so many corrupt and incompetent immigration consultants that people became very suspicious of being cheated, so some consultants began offering guarantess (money-back promises of success) to get clients. Some Canadian immigration services (usually consultants) still offer such money back guarantees. Sometimes they justify very high fees for these "guaranteed" services because they say they need the extra money to bribe the officials or judges. Actually, Canada is not a corrupt country and these officials and judges do not take bribes. The extra money is just going into the consultant's pocket. Sometimes the consultant secretly hires a lawyer to do the work for him because the consultant does not know how or is lazy or has poor English or French language skills, or because the consultant is not allowed to do immigration work (not a CSIC member). The extra money you pay for a "guarantee" is not really for a guarantee but so the consultant can make a profit after hiring a lawyer to do some or all of the work. In one case an unqualified consultant pretends to be working under the supervision of a lawyer but that lawyer does not know that the consultant is getting and serving clients (often incompetently) without the lawyer knowing about it. In Dr. Montgomery's experience since 1988, if your case fails these consultants never refund your money. You get deported or never get to come to Canada and they keep your money. It seems that the most dishonest and sleazy consultants make the most money. There are a very few immigration law firms which also offer money back guarantees but they also have never repaid money not because they are dishonest like the consultants but because they only accept cases with a very high chance of success. This is okay if you have a very strong case but it means if you have an average or weaker case or a complicated one they will not work for you.
Another reason to hire a lawyer is that if you have paid him or her a fee, anything you told him (in person or writing) is protected by "privilege" meaning the lawyer can legally keep it secret from anyone else, e.g. the police, immigration officers, the tax department. This privilege does not apply to consultants (or accountants).