When you need to hire a criminal defense lawyer to represent you, it can be challenging to know what you are looking for.
Obviously, you want your lawyer to be experienced, attentive, and personable. After all, who you hire matters. That is why it is so important you are prepared when you meet with an attorney for a free consultation.
Knowing which questions to ask and what answers to look for can help you weed out the lawyers who might not be a good fit and zero in on the attorneys who will do an excellent job defending you.
But many people who are in search of a lawyer are doing so for the first time. They have never been arrested or summoned to a courtroom before. Knowing where to even begin can be stressful in and of itself.
To help you navigate the challenging process of hiring the right lawyer, here are several questions you might want to ask during a free consultation.
What Type of Law Do You Focus On?
Just as it’s common for doctors to choose an area of emphasis like cardiology or orthopedics, many lawyers often specialize in one type of law over another. Many build their practices around personal injury law while others are experts when it comes to family law.
But if you are dealing with a criminal matter, you will need to hire a criminal defense attorney. Typically, criminal defense attorneys spend most of their time defending clients who have been charged with crimes.
Because of the way the criminal court system works in Kentucky and because of all the rules and regulations related to various crimes, some criminal defense attorneys might even have sub-specialties. These might be areas of the law such as assault, DUI, or federal crimes.
If the lawyer you are interviewing doesn’t focus on criminal defense or even the exact type of crime you have been charged with, it might be a good idea to keep searching. You can even ask the attorney if they know of another lawyer who does focus on your type of case and they might be able to refer you to them.
How Many Years Have You Been Practicing Law?
Faithfully and effectively representing clients is an important job and one that takes time to master. While lawyers learn a lot in law school, there is so much that isn’t taught about criminal procedure, that it makes experience a crucial component of any solid legal defense.
What’s more, is that the longer a lawyer has been practicing law, the longer they have had to build relationships in the courthouse with judges and even prosecutors. Those relationships can become crucial when it comes to negotiating the outcome of your case.
If the lawyer you are interviewing doesn’t have enough experience it might be a good idea to look for one who does. Especially when it comes to criminal charges, you don’t want to rely on a lawyer who doesn’t have the experience to represent you well.
How Does My Case Look?
After explaining the details of your case, you can ask your lawyer what they think about the charges that have been brought against you. While any good lawyer would need more time to thoroughly investigate a case, their initial analysis can be telling.
Based on the facts of your case, the lawyer you are interviewing should be able to compare it to other similar cases they have handled. If they can give you some examples of outcomes they have seen in cases like yours, it might be a good indication they will know what to do if you hire them.
A good criminal defense attorney will consider your defense from every possible angle, including:
- Whether or not you acted in self-defense
- Whether or not the authorities violated your rights
- Whether or not evidence against you was obtained unlawfully
- If your history as a model citizen could be leveraged for leniency
Additionally, if the lawyer you are interviewing has a defense strategy you don’t like, that doesn’t automatically mean you shouldn’t hire them. Some lawyers might only tell you what you want to hear and not what you need to hear.
The best bet is to hire a straight shooter who doesn’t sugarcoat the charges against you, yet is willing to mount an exhaustive defense anyway.
Who Else Works at the Firm?
Very few lawyers truly work alone. Most have support staff, clerical staff, and other lawyers they work with. This means that, while the lawyer you are interviewing will be quarterbacking your case, there will be a team of people working to defend you.
To get an idea of who those people might be, it is a good idea to ask who they are and what they are like. Even just by hearing how the lawyer talks about the other members of the firm, you can get an idea of how they function as a team and whether or not the other people working on your case are competent.
How Often Will You Update Me on My Case?
Communication is one of the most important keys to any defense. The lawyer you eventually hire needs to keep you apprised of any developments related to your case.
It is also vital that your lawyer be available to talk to you regularly. Ask if they are willing to give you their cell phone number and email so you can reach them at any time if you have a question.
If the lawyer you are considering seems like they don’t have the communication skills necessary to effectively represent you and keep you informed, it might be a good idea to keep looking.
How Much Do You Charge?
Before leaving the office of the lawyer you plan to hire, you need to learn how much they charge for their services. Obviously, if they seem like they are a good fit and are going to put up a rigorous defense then money is a secondary issue. You can hardly put a price on an acquittal, reduced charges, or even a favorable plea deal.
Make sure to get a contract in writing that clearly spells out the cost and other details of your professional relationship with the lawyer. If you feel comfortable, sign it and keep it in a safe place.
If you feel the price is too high or that the quality of the lawyer doesn’t match what they are asking for, keep looking. Though it can be stressful, you need to be willing to walk away from the consultation and meet with another lawyer.
And, after interviewing another attorney, or giving yourself some time to think about it, you can always return and hire the lawyer later.