You are pulled over on a traffic stop, and a police officer confronts you. Now you find yourself facing criminal charges. You’ve never been arrested before, and you don’t know the first thing about hiring an attorney. What are you supposed to do now? If you have found yourself in a situation similar to the one above, you are not alone. There are several things you need to consider.
Get some names
First, do some research. Get some names from whatever source. The internet seems to be the method of finding people these days and is a great place to start. Chances are, an attorney who has a legitimate business will have a web presence in the area he or she practices. Ask some friends. Everyone knows someone who’s been charged with something. Who did they use? Did they have a good result? Did they trust the person they hired? Would the attorney meet with them and return their phone calls? Did they have staff to assist?
Schedule some meetings
You should meet with several different attorneys before choosing one. It gives you the opportunity to get a feel for the knowledge the attorney has about your type of case. Do your own research and ask questions. Treat this initial meeting as an interview of someone you are hiring (because after all, that’s what you’re doing.) Your attorney is someone you will be dealing with for months or in some cases, years. Therefore you should make sure you trust this person and feel comfortable talking with them and having them represent you. As an attorney, I will also be making sure you are someone I can work with. Every client is not for me and I am not for every client.
Watch out for False Promises!
I have heard of this far too often. Promises of dismissal, probation, no jail time, etc. Honestly, do you really think an attorney can tell you what sentence you will receive without any information from the prosecutor or law enforcement? I don’t mean a general idea, I mean a promise that you won’t have to pay a fine, or a promise of dismissal. All these promises are true signs of desperation to get your case, and signs of inexperience, not to mention unethical – RUN OUT THE DOOR!
Consider the Price
Just like you hire a roofer or mechanic, price should be a factor in your decision. Again a price that seems extremely low can be a sign of inexperience or desperation to get your case. A price that is extremely high, can be a sign that the attorney is too busy to work on your case because they have enough to do already. All representation is not equal and while price can be an indicator, it is not a definitive test as to the experience, quality, or dedication of the attorney. Just like not hiring the cheapest roofer, or the most expensive, you will want to treat your attorney search the same way.
Consider the attorney’s experience, background, and focus on particular areas of practice. Have they been practicing law for a long time? Have they worked on criminal cases? Have they always been a defense attorney, or have they also prosecuted, too? Do they practice other areas of law besides criminal law? Just because someone is a wonderful real-estate attorney, or divorce attorney, doesn’t make them a great criminal lawyer. Likewise, someone who has been in private practice for their entire 15 year career has probably handled less criminal cases than the person who worked in the public defender’s office, or prosecutor’s office for 5 years. Don’t let raw numbers fool you.
Make a decision
After speaking with several attorneys, pick one. Go through the questions I’ve presented above with some review. After meeting with the attorney, how did he or she make you feel? How did the staff treat you? Were you treated with respect or were you pressured like they were trying to sell you a piece of furniture? Look at their reviews and testimonials if there are any available online. Most importantly, trust in the person that you hire. Every situation will not work out perfectly, but if you have the right attorney who is experienced in your situation, your chances of a positive outcome go up tremendously.