Which is Better? Flat Fee v. Hourly Costs
Criminal Defense Lawyers, for the most part, charge flat fees, and many offer payment plans. In my opinion, there is no better deal than criminal defense lawyers. Pay one up-front fee, and other than costs (serving subpoenas, court transcripts, investigators, over night mail), that's it. Why do I think it's the best deal? Civil lawyers (like divorce lawyers) charge by the hour. If a civil lawyer takes four months to resolve a case, you'll pay for every minute of that representation. Let's say you get a DUI. The average fee for a "good" DUI lawyer is $5,000. That is the usual fee if the case resolves in a phone call, or 15 court appearances. Trial may be extra, but you have a less than 3% chance of your case going to trial. I'll take the 97% odds.
Don't Hire in a Hurry
After the arrest, remove from your mind that you need to hire a lawyer in 5 minutes. You usually have at least a week to make a good decision. Unless you've been lazy or had your head buried in the sand hoping it would go away, be wary of the lawyer who pressures you to make the decision immediately.
Don't Only Interview Lawyers Offering a "Free Consultation"
Don't ever call a lawyer you're thinking of hiring and ask how much he or she charges. That lawyer will immediately think you are cheap, broke, and that you will waste his time in a consultation. On that note, don't ever ask if there's a consultation fee. That's like saying "you're not going to ask me for $500 are you?"
Impress Your Attorney
Do not go to the appointment looking like you just came from the mall. Wear pants, a decent shirt and a tie. Show some respect, be on time, don't get lost and don't bring your "friend." If you are a parent looking for a lawyer to represent your child, and you're going to pay the fee, don't expect to be part of the entire consultation. The lawyer has to discuss private details and protect the attorney-client privilege with the client (the one arrested, not the one with the wallet). If you have to cancel or reschedule your appointment, make the phone call.
Talk with the Lawyer About Your Case, Not the Fee
The fee quote will usually come at the end. Make the lawyer like you. Don't play the victim and ask about suing the cops, or tell the lawyer you think your case is "simple."
Be Honest About Your Money Situation
Be honest with the lawyer. Tell her you want to hire her, if you do, and the details of your financial situation. You just told this lawyer you were plastered, picked up a hooker, stole something or shot someone. This is not a time to be coy or shy. Admit you are poor, broke, or need time to pay the fee. Tell the lawyer what you can come up with right now, today.
Realize This May Cost More Than You Anticipated
You should hire a lawyer you feel comfortable with, who charges more money than you wanted to spend. You may feel good that two lawyers quoted you $30,000 for your drug trafficking case and the one you're talking to now is charging you $10,000, but that's a sign to be careful. All lawyers are not rich, and most have to pay the rent. You don't want a lawyer is looking for next month's rent, or worse, this month's rent.
You are facing jail. Do you really want your lawyer to be in the mindset that you are that client who didn't think she was worth her fee? You're in trouble and you need a lawyer. You need to pay for that lawyer, and you need to pay for that lawyer now. An attorney-client relationship that begins with money problems is a waste of time for you and your lawyer.