Important Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Lawyer
Probably one of the last things most people ever think about, or want to think about is having to hire a criminal lawyer. Whether it’s for you or for a family member, ‘criminal lawyer’ means someone has been charged with a crime, and who wants to consider that as part of their reality?
Of course, there are times in life when you may have had no ill intentions toward anyone, but the result was still a criminal charge. And you certainly can’t always control the behavior of your kids and other family members. It’s for these occasions that you need a good criminal lawyer to represent you in court and take the reins in your case.
Even though your head may be spinning at the thought of all that’s happening, before you just sign on with anyone, take the time to ask some crucial questions.
Considering the importance of the outcome for you, don’t ever be afraid to ask about the lawyer’s background and relevant experience. You want to know that the criminal lawyer you choose has done this before. Every great lawyer has to start somewhere and there will always be that ‘first case’, but you really don’t want it to be you.
Ask questions such as:
How long have you been out of law school?
How many years have you been in practice?
How many cases have you handled similar to this one?
How many cases have you argued in court?
What percentage of your practice is devoted to criminal law?
Do you often negotiate plea agreements with prosecutors?
It’s important to find a criminal lawyer that has experience defending the same kind of charges you’ve been charged with. Although it all falls under the same umbrella, the details can be quite different.
You wouldn’t want a brain surgeon doing your heart surgery, and you don’t want a lawyer who specializes in murder trials arguing your tax evasion case.
Along with the right background and experience, knowing that your lawyer has proven him or herself is something else you’ll want to know. More specifically, what kind of track record does he or she have in cases like yours?
Hiring a lawyer that has defended and lost many cases like yours may not be the best strategy if you want to win your case.
How the lawyer charges clients and how much he charges clients are more important questions to ask. Naturally, criminal lawyers with more experience and more successes will charge more, but your chances of winning the case are also higher. Figure ahead of time what kind of budget you’re working with and then ask some questions like these:
Do you charge a retainer just to get started?
Do you charge by the hour or a flat rate?
Do I have to pay any other expenses besides the lawyer fees?
Do you give an overall estimate and how accurate is it?
It’s important to keep your eyes open for certain practices or characteristics that might indicate this lawyer isn’t the one for you.
It’s no secret that you want to hire someone that is going to get you out of this trouble, but you must be cautious of any lawyer who promises they’re going to win your case.
You need a professional who will pour through your arrest reports and all other information and speak with prosecutors and witnesses to give you the best defense possible.
Anyone who would promise you a result before doing any of this, or even after, isn’t worth your time. Without careful consideration of the evidence, promises mean absolutely nothing.
If you’re sold on their lawyer and feel secure that he or she is the best suited for your defense, it’s also wise to ask if they will be handling the case personally.
Sometimes, your attorney will hand off cases to junior lawyers or law clerks to work on.
The problem with this is that you agreed to pay a certain fee based on that lawyer handling your case, and you built up a rapport with the lawyer and trust him to take the case.
The people that the lawyer chooses may be more than competent, but it’s still information you should know.
Published on Sep 5, 2012
Lorne Gross MA, LLB, offering professional legal representations to clients across the Greater Toronto Area.