How To Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer: (Part III)

If you are under investigation or charged with a crime, then you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer. In choosing a criminal defense lawyer to defend your Liberty, you are making one of the most important decisions of your life.

Understandably, many people who need a criminal defense lawyer have little or no knowledge on what to look for. So, while it’s a critical decision, most are ill equipped to make the decision. It’s not your  fault. If you have never been charged with a crime, there is no reason why you should know how to find a good criminal defense lawyer.

Clients are often overwhelmed, having just been arrested and charged with a crime. The added burden of having to find a competent lawyer hardly seems fair. But, if you value your Liberty, you should hire the best criminal defense lawyer possible to protect your Liberty.

You may look at the internet and read lawyer websites. Lawyer websites are useful, but they rarely present a full picture. All lawyers, including me, brag on their websites. Websites are a form of advertising, so all lawyer websites should be viewed with a suitable squint. That’s not to say lawyer websites are of no value; websites provide valuable background information. Just remember lawyers don’t brag on their losses.

When I started practicing law, I learned three basic criteria that clients should consider when hiring a lawyer.  I discuss the three criteria below.

1. COMPETENCE
Hire a lawyer that knows what he is doing; someone who is competent to handle your case. There are lots of lawyers but not all lawyers are competent to handle every case. Most criminal defense lawyers who are good , can handle most criminal cases. But there are exceptions.

Sex cases are some of the most difficult cases to successfully defend. If you are charged with a sex case, pay careful attention to the lawyers level of experience. You do not want a lawyer learning how to defend a sex case, with your Liberty hanging in the balance. Hiring a lawyer who has successfully defended sex cases seems prudent. Hiring a lawyer with little or no experience defending a sex case is likely foolish.

People can be charged with criminal offenses in Federal or State court. Many criminal defense lawyers only handle state cases. Many criminal defense lawyers have little or no  experience in fighting  federal charges. The differences between defending against federal and state charges are substantial. If you are facing a federal charge, you should hire a criminal defense lawyer who is experienced in  Federal court. Federal court  is no place for baby or inexperienced lawyers.

No matter what the criminal charge, hire a  lawyer that is competent to handle your case.

2. COMMUNICATION
Hire a lawyer who will communicate with you. One of the biggest complaints against lawyers is that they don’t  return phone calls. Another complaint, is that lawyers  simply don’t take the time to explain things well. You need a lawyer who is responsive. You need a lawyer who will take the time to explain things to you in a way that makes sense to you.

A lawyer should be reasonably accessible to his clients. A lawyer should timely return calls. A lawyer should take the time to explain what’s going on with your case.
A lawyer should take the time to answer your questions.

When evaluating a potential lawyer, consider some of these questions:

– After you initially called the lawyer, how quickly did he or someone on his staff call you back?

– How quickly did the lawyer’s office give you an appointment to meet with the lawyer?

– When you visit with the lawyer, does he seem genuinely interested in what happened to you?

– Does the lawyer listen to your story?

– Does the  lawyer ask questions?

– Does the lawyer take the time to explain the process, the court, and your potential defenses?

– Does the lawyer answer your questions in such a way that You understand what he is talking about?

– Does the lawyer seem genuinely interested in helping you or is his focus simply on the fee?

Good communication with your lawyer is important in that it’s the key to a good relationship. The relationship between you and your lawyer is important. The better your relationship, the better you will work together on your defense.

3. COST
Hire a lawyer that you can afford. Criminal defense lawyers generally quote flat fees, as  opposed to hourly fees.

Lawyers’ fees vary tremendously. Fees can be modest to substantial, depending on a number of factors. The most significant factor in setting a fee is the charge itself. A man facing a Sexual Assault  charge will generally  pay a much higher fee than a man facing a Driving while intoxicated charge.

Some criteria that lawyers commonly consider when setting a fee include:
– the nature and complexity of the charges;
– the time & labor that it will likely take to defend the client;
– the novelty and difficulty of the case;
– the skill level necessary for a lawyer to provide competent representation;
– the fee customarily charged in that area on similar cases;
– time crunches that may require immediate attention to the case;
– the experience,reputation and ability of the lawyer; and
– the client’s background, including whether he has any prior criminal record.

It’s important for a lawyer to set a fee that adequately compensates him for his work. Likewise, the lawyer should try, if possible, to set a fee that the client can afford. I once observed that the perfect fee was likely one that the lawyer felt was not quite as much as he was worth and the client thought was more than he could pay.

Get the best lawyer you can afford. With your Liberty at stake, this is no time to cut corners. DO NOT HIRE A CHEAP LAWYER. That is the biggest and most costly mistake you can make.

It has been said that, “The most expensive thing in the world is a cheap lawyer.”

What does this mean?

It means a cheap lawyer may likely cost you your Liberty. A cheap lawyer will have little financial incentive to work on your case. If the cheap lawyer is not working on your case,the chances of a good outcome for you go down.

No one plans to get charged with a crime. When a person is under investigation or charged they must fight to protect their Liberty. Hiring the best possible criminal defense lawyer to defend you is in your best interest. There are few Second chances in criminal law. Get the best lawyer you can.

Good Luck

Robb Fickman

About Robert Fickman

Robert Fickman is a criminal defense attorney with 33 years experience in defending the citizen accused in both state and federal court. He is a past president of HCCLA and remains active in its mission.

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