If you have been charged with a crime, you should first hire an attorney. But before you make the big decision, you should seek clarity to maximize your chances of winning the case. Though most important legal proceedings may take weeks or even months, the trial phase is often compressed into a few hours.
Choosing a criminal defense attorney could mean the difference between being found innocent and receiving time in prison. As a result, choosing one can be an arduous undertaking. It’s essential to do your research and find the right one–the following eight questions will help you in the process.
1. How Long Have You Practiced Law?
The best lawyers have been practicing for years, and so should you. Having experience will reduce the risks of hiring a lawyer with little or no trial experience. A criminal defense lawyer who has been practicing for at least five years should be a good choice. They can advise on what to do and expect throughout this legal process.
2. Do You Specialize in Criminal Law?
In addition to experience, specialization is prevalent in many industries. A lawyer specializing in criminal cases may be more skilled and experienced than one working on a wide variety of cases.
3. What is Your Success Rate?
A potential lawyer should provide a record of their past case success. Doing so will be easier to avoid lawyers with little or no trial experience or those who don’t perform well in court. The better attorney records are online or on the company website, but if you cannot find any, ask the lawyer to provide some original documents that prove their experience and success rate.
4. Can I Speak to Your Last Few Clients?
It’s beneficial to speak with the attorney’s last three clients about their experience with the lawyer. You can ask each client questions that will help you decide if this lawyer is a good choice. Clients can advise you on what to expect from the lawyer, how helpful they were, and whether they would recommend them to other clients.
Talking with these clients can be helpful as you continue your research with other questions about the attorney. A good lawyer will also be able to tell you how many cases he has handled in the last few years, as well as other related information.
5. Do You Charge an Hourly or Inclusive Fee?
The rates charged by attorneys can differ widely. Some lawyers charge by the hour, while others charge based on their total billings per case. In some places, a flat fee is common, meaning that if you take a case, you must pay a certain amount upfront. Other places allow courts to decide the rate they will use. An inclusive fee usually means the attorney will handle everything from court documents to a defendant’s bail.
6. How Strong is My Case?
Even with a great criminal defense lawyer, you should know what to expect in your case. A lawyer who does not have experience with your type of crime should not be able to answer this question. If possible, ask for a copy of the last few cases they handled like yours, and find out how they turned out. This information can help you decide if the attorney is right for you.
7. Who Else Will Be on My Case Within the Firm?
If you only need the lawyer to appear in court, you may be fine accepting an attorney who doesn’t have a partner or associate helping them. However, if your case is complicated, hiring an attorney with a legal team supporting them is ideal.
A legal team can assure you that your case will be handled correctly and professionally. In addition to the attorney, a good legal team will include paralegals and legal secretaries who can assist their attorney.
8. How Often Will We Communicate?
There is no substitute for meeting your lawyer in person. However, if you can’t meet with them, it’s a good idea to find out when they will be available to meet. Knowing when they will be available will allow you to schedule your court dates and discuss other issues with the attorney that you may have.
If you have been charged with a crime, you should first hire an attorney. Although there are many more questions to ask a potential criminal defense lawyer, these should be enough to determine if this attorney is right for you. Though not a guarantee, these questions can help you understand what to expect from your lawyer and how to protect yourself against those who do not perform well in court.=