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Surviving Court: Tips for Hiring an Attorney

March 12, 2018

 

When you find yourself in trouble with the law, one of the first things you need to do is retain legal representation. This is not as easy as it sounds because there are many lawyers out there and, like with any other profession, not all people licensed to do the job are actually good at the job. This, on top of the fact that most people don’t actively research which criminal defense attorney is worth their fee makes the entire situation much more complicated. Many times we will ask our friends, neighbors, or family if they know of a “good attorney”; other times we will go to other known professionals or just ask the bail bondsman who they recommend. This is not always a good idea.

 

Here are some basic tips on hiring an attorney:

  • Find a specialist.

Keep in mind that not all lawyers are experts in everything. Same thing that applies to Lawyers that applies to doctors. You would not go to a dermatologist to when you need by-pass surgery just like you would go to a heart surgeon to treat your skin cancer. There are attorneys who specialize in criminal defense, family law, etc., as broad categories but there are specializations within each category as well.

  • What is your desired end result?

If within your needs of service, you are looking to come to a negotiated settlement, there are lawyers that are great at that, if you are looking to go to trial there are great ones for that as well…not all lawyers are great at both.

  • How much are you looking to spend?

Different lawyers charge different fees and have different retainer requirements. Look at your budget and think about how important your desired results to you are. Lawyers are able to bill higher rates many times because of contacts and expertise; this is not like buying socks where the cheap ones will work as well as the more costly ones. An attorney will charge more because of a proven track record, demand for his/her services, reputation, and experience; those are hard-earned and have real value.

     From the point of view of a person who has hired both “good” and “bad” attorneys in the past, I will give you my criteria for hiring criminal defense attorneys; this is the criteria used by my company to choose who to refer. Disclaimer: This is my opinion based on personal experience and from having interviewed and spoken to 100’s of people who have had need of an attorney with mixed results.

  • What is the specialty?

     In criminal defense, I find, there are three basic types of attorneys with many subsets in-between. You have those that are great negotiators, those great with papers and those great at trials. Some attorneys overlap with skill-sets but the truly great ones know their shortcomings and will work with others to compensate skills. 

  • Are you better retaining a law group over solo practice? 

     That depends on your situation, for example, if you are arrested and are just looking for a bail reduction, or know you are guilty and just want to plead guilty as quickly as possible, it will make no difference whether you hire a group or a solo-practitioner as long as who you hire has a reputation and specialization in bail reductions or negotiating plea offers. On the other hand, if you have a complicated case that might need a variety of solutions, you might want to consider a law group or firm.

  • What is the response time?

     Take into account how many times you will call the attorney and how long it takes for you to get a response. This will make a difference to you as your case develops and you need to contact him/her.

  • What is the retainer structure?

     This is what it will cost you. For some this is a deal breaker, but if hiring an attorney for criminal defense you need to know a few things. 1) What is the initial retainer? This is essentially what you have to give for them to begin working. 2) What are you being billed per hour. This is what it will cost when tasks are performed on your behalf. 3) How are you billed? Will it be in 60 min, 30 min, 15 min, or 6 min increments? This is important for you to know because if you are the type of person to want to call often, you will know what each call is costing you and, hopefully, help you prioritize your questions and concerns. You are not their only client and time is valuable.

  • What is their online reputation and customer rating?

     You wouldn’t hire a person to do your plumbing if enough people told you they weren’t good or if you see they have many complaints online; why would you put years of your life in the hands of another person without researching them a little first? Not everything on the internet can be believed, but enough people saying the same thing (good or bad) should be taken into account.

  • Are they honest?

     I can hear the honest lawyer jokes already…Seriously though; having an honest lawyer could save you from a lot of headaches. If the lawyer cannot prepare you for the reality of your situation then you need a new lawyer. I’ll give an example, if you have been arrested for murder, the police found you on scene covered in blood, you made the mistake of talking to them without asking for representation and confessed in front of 25 witnesses and your lawyer is still telling you that you won’t spend a night in prison then that lawyer is not being truthful. (Exaggerated scenario for the purpose of showing an extreme and unlikely circumstance). Lawyers are hired to represent us because of their expertise, knowledge and connections; they are not free (most of the time); you should expect they be as honest with you as possible.

  • Are they confident?

     This is more important if you are going to trial, you want a lawyer with good presence if you are putting your life (and next few years of freedom) in their hands. If you have ever seen Law and Order or any of the other courtroom dramas and think that is what it really is like, you are in for a shock. I have not seen many attorneys that can shine in a trial, there is a certain level of confidence and showmanship that wins trials and that comes from extraordinary confidence in their argument and ability. If you intend on taking your case to trial please choose your attorney very carefully.

 

     These are a few tips to finding the right attorney, it is not an easy process and the wrong choice could cost you more than a couple of dollars. In some instances it could cost your freedom, custody of your children and much more.  If you are in need of an attorney because of a pending criminal action or because a loved one has been arrested, contact us. We will be there to guide you through the entire process, from hiring an attorney through to the resolution of the matter and everything in between; we will guide you and advocate on your behalf every step of the way. Let us prepare a custom plan for you.

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