There are a number of situations in life when you have to decide whether to hire a lawyer. For instance, if you’re purchasing a house or having trouble paying your bills, hiring a lawyer may not be a necessity, but it’s a good idea nonetheless. However, if you’ve been charged with driving under the influence, assault, or some other crime, hiring a criminal lawyer is mandatory. You’ll want to make sure that your legal rights are protected throughout the entire judicial process.
But where do you begin, when you’re hoping to hire a qualified criminal lawyer? One of the best ways to find an effective attorney is to consult with your family and friends. There is nothing better than a personal recommendation, especially one that comes from someone who is close to you. However, there are times when it might be difficult to obtain a personal referral. In those situations, you might consider consulting the local bar association or an Internet site such as lawyers.com. The Internet, in fact, can provide a wealth of information about individual lawyers. For instance, you can find out about a lawyer’s level of expertise in criminal law, biographical information, whether the lawyer is in good standing with the bar, and other pertinent facts. In addition, online archives of your local newspaper might include articles about cases that a particular lawyer has tried. You’ll want to hire a lawyer with plenty of experience in the area of criminal law involved in your case, whether it be traffic offenses, drug crimes, or white collar crimes.
The next step is contacting the lawyer’s office. If an attorney cannot meet with you on short notice, don’t count the lawyer out. Effective lawyers are quite busy, so, if a lawyer is short on time, that may actually be a positive sign. Pay close attention to how your call is handled by the lawyer’s staff. The staff should be courteous and be willing to answer all of your questions.
You should be aware of the fact that criminal defense lawyers tend to charge by the hour. As an alternative, they may charge a flat fee up front. Generally speaking, rules of professional conduct bar a lawyer from charging a contingency fee for a criminal case. Since legal fees can vary, you might want to engage in some comparison shopping. However, be advised that the better lawyers tend to charge more for their services. Since your freedom and reputation are at stake, you should invest in the best lawyer you can afford.
Given the fact that criminal cases are often settled through plea agreements with a district attorney’s office, it can be important for a criminal lawyer to be on good terms with the D.A. Certainly, good relations between the two can only enhance your case. Therefore, you’ll want a lawyer who has fairly regular contact with the prosecuting attorney in the county in which your case resides. Also, it’s a good idea if you hire a lawyer who is affiliated with a group such as the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Such an association shows that your lawyer wants to keep abreast of new developments in the area of criminal law.
Prior to hiring a criminal lawyer, be sure to ask for references. You’ll want to know how clients view the attorney’s expertise. You should also obtain a copy of the law firm’s brochure, so you have a clear understanding of the outfit you’re dealing with. It is also vitally important that you obtain a copy of the lawyer’s retainer agreement so that you’re aware of any up-front costs involved in obtaining legal representation.
In the end, you’ll want to select a lawyer that you’re comfortable with, one that truly understands your case and can work well on your behalf. You’ll find that an effective criminal attorney is well worth his or her fee.