When you need a criminal defense lawyer may not be the best time to select an attorney, but it is usually the first time the issue is ever given any consideration. What I tell prosepective clients, is that they need to personally interview the lawyer, not just call them on the phone. Many firms offer a free initial consultation, or if there is a fee, it is applied to the cost of the representation after you retain the firm.
We have clients who wait until they are charged before the obtain the services of a lawyer; and, we have clients who have retained us, just in case they are charged. Very few of these types of retainers are signed where there is no pending charge or no current investigation that may result in a charge. This does not mean that you could not retain a lawyer 'just in case', but it may mean that you pay for something you will never need, a type of 'insurance' so to speak. You hope you never need it, but then, just in case...
Whenever you are deciding on a lawyer, you need to understand what experience or expertise the lawyer has that will make the representation a benefit to you. Look on-line, lawyers who can afford the better advertising and websites, are generally able to because they are established and successful at what they do. Then, call to see what the answers are to the questions listed below. Ask to talk with the lawyer who would actually handle your case. Ask the lawyer whether they consider the conversation covereed by the attorney-client privilege (most will say yes). The set up the appointment for the free consultation.
When you call the lawyer, among the issues you need to discuss with the lawyer, are the following:
1. How much experience do they have with the type of charges you have been charged with?
2. What portion of their practice is dedicated to handling cases like yours?
3. What are the legal fees to handle the case during the first stage of the proceedings?
4. What are the possible defenses that may be available?
If you are still interested in using this lawyer for the representation, schedule the in-person appointment to confirm your opinion before you ever pay the retainer fee.
Please remember these seven simple words: YOU HAVE THE RIGHT TO REMAIN SILENT! While trying to hire a lawyer "just in case" might seem prudent, what kind of lawyer should you hire? Some lawyers limit their practice to narrow areas of the law. For example, some "criminal lawyers" only handle drunk driving cases but not robbery or murder, while others may handle robbery and murder but not drunk driving cases... So hiring a lawyer "just in case" seems a bit pointless until you know what you will need them for...
If a person is arrested, then the need for a lawyer has matured because you know WHY you need the lawyer and thus which type of lawyer to hire. And this can all be done BEFORE you talk to the police. Remember, other than giving the police your name, rank and serial number, you don't need to tell them ANYTHING. No matter how tough a cop talks, or how much they tell you that you "need" to tell them something, YOU DONT HAVE TO TELL THEM ANYTHING!!! Here in America you have the right, under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, to REMAIN SILENT! Exercise that right.
Once you have gotten past the name, rank and serial number stage, you can talk intelligently with attorneys about what you need and what they can do to help you. And YES, anything you tell an attorney regarding a legal matter, whether you hire the lawyer or not, IS CONFIDENTIAL. The only exception is if you tell a lawyer that you plan to bring serious bodily harm to someone and the lawyer believes your threat to be true, then and only them must a lawyer contact the authorities and report what you have said. Otherwise, mum is the word. Even if you admit murdering the person and where you hid the body! The lawyer still can not be compelled to tell ANYONE, not even a Judge, what you said.
Bottom line, dont' talk to the cops until AFTER you have hired a lawyer or believe me, anything you say CAN AND WILL BE USED AGAINST YOU in a court of law.
It is probably useless to hire a criminal defense attorney with no charges pending or the looming threat of an investigation. If arrested or investigated you or your family will have time to hire a lawyer. Maybe it would be wiser to start saving your money to hire a criminal defense attorney if you see something out on the horizon.