The Most Costly Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney
When you find yourself in need of a criminal defense attorney, you might be willing to settle for the first lawyer that comes your way, or the one that’s willing to take on your case pro bono. But this could be a costly mistake – one that might land you in jail. You’re better off paying the money for a respected criminal defense attorney that has a solid record of acquittal in cases like yours. It may take you some time to find the right person, and you’ll likely pay a pretty penny for your trouble, but if the prospect of freedom and a clean criminal record is your top priority, then it’s well worth the time, effort, and cost to find the right person. However, you might still make some common mistakes along the way. So here are just a few tips that should help you to avoid some of the worst errors that others in your position have made.
- Failing to ascertain costs up front. You don’t necessarily want to base your decision solely on the cost of a particular attorney. After all, you want someone reputable and experienced, and that can come with a pretty big price tag. That said, it would be a mistake to hire any attorney, no matter how good, without first asking him to break down his fee structure. You need to know how much he charges for everything from filing paperwork to phone calls. And you should get an estimate on how much he is likely to bill you for your type of case. Don’t forget to ask about the cost of settling out of court versus taking your case to trial; there’s bound to be a big difference.
- Ignoring DIY opportunities. You might be surprised to learn that there are plenty of tasks you can do on your own. For starters, you should compile all relevant paperwork before you even begin scheduling consultations with prospective legal representation. When you provide the documentation that your lawyer expects so that he doesn’t have to track it down, you’ll save him time and yourself money in the process. Don’t hesitate to ask what else you can do to cut back on costs.
- Phone calls. This is perhaps more relevant after you’ve hired your attorney, but before you pay your retainer make sure to ask how much you’ll be charged for phone calls. Most attorneys have fees based on set increments (oddly, 6 minutes, or 1/10th of an hour, seems to be standard). So you’ll want to learn the costs up front and plan accordingly.
- Lying or withholding information. Your attorney can only help you insomuch as you’re willing to help yourself. No matter what you did or how ashamed you are, it is in your best interest to divulge all of your secrets to your lawyer, regardless of whether or not you think they’re important. Anything you’ve done can probably be dug up, which means opposing counsel can find it. And unless you want your attorney to be blindsided, you need to tell him everything so that he has the opportunity to mount a defense on your behalf. If you lie or mislead him in any way, you’re really only hurting yourself. Don’t forget that your lawyer is bound by attorney-client privilege, so anything you say to him is protected by law.
- Hiring the wrong attorney. Whether you opt for an attorney that specializes in something other than criminal defense, your hire a professional that lacks sufficient experience with cases like yours, or you go with a bargain basement establishment that lacks the track record needed to win your case, you’re the one who is going to suffer for it (your attorney will still demand payment if you lose). So meet with lawyers from Keker & Van Nest, Winston & Strawn, Davis & Greene, and whomever else you like, but make sure they’re qualified to take your case before you lay down the cash to hire the firm.