Results from a criminal conviction are extraordinary and more devastating than paying a fine, community service, losing your license, or serving time. Hiring an attorney is a critical decision and many factors must first be considered.
Your attorney needs to be an experienced criminal lawyer
This is very important because you want an attorney whose primary practice area is criminal defense. Lawyers who spend most of their time focusing on other areas of law are not as well versed with the intricacies of criminal law. Further, criminal lawyers develop strong relationships with other attorneys, DAs, and the like facilitating disposing of cases more quickly and easily. Also, an experienced attorney will have argued matters before most local judges and magistrates and are familiar with the best methods for winning.
Check with both the State Disciplinary Bar organization. In PA you can find an attorney’s standing at http://www.padisciplinaryboard.org/. Persons who are suspended from practice or are unethical will not be the best to represent your case.
Make More Than 1 Call
Speak with many attorneys in your area about your matter before deciding on a person to go with. This is important because you have to not only trust but have confidence and believe in the attorney who is representing you. There style needs to mesh with you because cases are very emotional, time consuming, and impactful so you need to ensure this lawyer understands and truly has your best interests at heart.
Fees and Costs
You need to ensure any attorney you want to retain clearly explains the fee structure to you. The attorney needs to clearly demonstrate what costs you will be responsible for beyond just the hourly/project rate. These extra fees could easily cost thousands of dollars and include stamps, postage, couriers, copying, faxing, filing, and the like. Further although this legal guide is intended for finding criminal defense attorney if you also have a personal injury matter you want to know whether the lawyer’s share is off the entire award or after divisions have already been made.
a. Make sure you have an attorney who will actually return your correspondence. At Cornerstone has a policy whereby all client correspondence (letters, email, calls)is returned within 24 hours from initial receipt. This is important because many lawyers will not return correspondence until days or weeks later and often in a hurried manner where all of your concerns are not addressed. Finally, when you have a concern it is always good to know when and where you can reach your attorney.
I Do Not Like My Lawyer
There will be times when you have either retained an attorney or have been appointed one whom you have conflict with. If the lawyer was privately retained the answer is to simply remove them, whereas if they are court appointed the process can be more complex. The most important factor to remember is trying to work things out before trying to exit the situation.
Making the Current Situation Better
If you feel your current attorney is not adequately representing you or listening to your needs then immediately express this. You need to tell your current attorney what you think is wrong and how to improve. Listen to why the attorney is doing things in a particular manner because doing so in may be in your best interest. For example your attorney may strongly advise you not to testify despite your instance on taking the stand because by doing so would expose you to further liability or harm your case. Be open and hear what is said and see if the reasoning is something agreeable. Sometimes a candid conversation can show a lawyer is invested in your case, is working dilligently, and is dealing with your concerns. Almost all lawyers are willing to discuss your concerns but if yours is not then consider seeking outside counsel.
May I Speak With A Supervisor
If your lawyer refuses to speak with you about your concerns then call the supervisor. Explain your concerns to the attorney’s supervisor. The supervisor will likely be in a position to rectify this current matter and prevent future issues. You must ask the supervisor the specific, detailed steps which will be taken to handle your issue. Note the time, date, and name for the supervisor who you spoke with if a follow-up is necessary. If you are represented by the Public Defender, supervisors will be more reluctant to reassign you to a new attorney, due to personality conflicts. You must convince the supervisor your current lawyer is so ineffective it will benefit everyone to assign a new attorney and you will not be content until you are adequately represented.