Hiring the right lawyer for a criminal case can be the difference between achieving a satisfactory outcome, and a result that can tear your life apart.
Just because you know someone and trust them, doesn’t mean they are qualified to handle your specific matter. Likewise, you don’t want to work with someone who is capable, but unethical.
Here are some points to finding the right person to work with:
Before you decide who to work with, you may wish to spend some time with your potential lawyer to make sure they inspire confidence. Prepare a list of questions before you meet for the first time, and be honest and upfront.
“I am speaking to a few lawyers because I want to make sure I have the best possible representation. If you don’t mind, I’d like to ask you a couple of questions.”
Seek their honest opinion on your case, and get their “feel” for how things will play out. Sometimes it’s worth spending a bit of money to make sure you have the right professional on your side.
However, the right lawyer may not be someone you get along with personally, or even like very much. Maybe they come across as brash or condescending – but don’t become distracted by what you see as distasteful personality traits. Your lawyer is not your friend, and just as you don’t choose a doctor based on their manners, make sure you are selecting the right lawyer for your case based on the trust in their specific expertise and experience.
Begin with experience; does your potential lawyer have experience in cases like yours? What similar cases have they been involved in recently, and were they able to produce good results? Can they produce testimonials or references from satisfied clients?
The legal process will be explained to you, but make sure you ask about your lawyer’s process also. If you decide to work with them, how will the case proceed? Will you need to speak in court, and if so will they provide coaching? How will evidence be gathered? Will they need to be present during police interviews? What do they see as potential opportunities and pitfalls in this particular case? Perhaps most importantly, if you have not been involved in a court case before, then what should you be made aware of that you may not know?
Go beyond the hourly rate. Ask how much you will likely need to budget for the entire case, and what additional costs may be incurred. If your budget is limited, you can ask your lawyer to tell you when you’ve reached a certain billing level in order to avoid unpleasant surprises. Remember, your lawyer is providing a service at a set hourly rate and needs to know if you have any financial restrictions upfront – complaining about billings after the case is complete is far more painful for both of you than having an open and honest conversation up front.