Criminal defense cases cover both criminal suits — charges brought by the government to punish an individual for an act classified as a crime — and civil suits — claims brought by individuals or organizations as a dispute over rights and duties.
Finding a Lawyer Unfortunately for most people, but fortunately for our office, most people need a lawyer in some form or fashion many times throughout their life. This helps explain why sometimes it seems like one out of every three people you meet are some type of attorney. When searching for a lawyer it is important to keep in mind why it is you need help in the first place, as well as what exactly you want your attorney to help you with. Some lawyers will offer services that you do not need or want. In the alternative, maybe you would like additional help than what is being offered. Make sure when meeting with prospective legal counsel to voice these requests so you know exactly what services are being offered. My practice focuses almost entirely on car accident injury cases, criminal cases and DUI defense; therefore any examples used in this post will likely refer to one of those three areas.
It is always good to keep a budget in mind; sometimes you get what you pay for, but other times you simply pay for what you got. Now, this is not applicable to personal injury cases (i.e. car accidents, truck accidents, motorcycle accidents), where most cases are taken on a contingency fee basis. However, when hiring a criminal lawyer or dui attorney, the harsh reality is not everyone has the same resources, and thus, not everyone can pay for the same legal services. Unlike other major purchases in life, most people do not plan ahead for attorney fees. In other words, more money does not always mean a better product or better service. And again, make sure you know what you are paying for. As an example, say you hire an attorney to represent you because you were arrested for DUI. You and the lawyer agree that in return for representation on your DUI, you will pay a flat fee of $1,000.00 up front (relatively standard fee for a DUI first offense in Omaha, NE). Does this fee cover all hearings? What are “all hearings”? Does the fee include representation for your Administrative License Revocation (ALR) hearing with the DMV? Does the fee include showing up for additional hearings while you are on probation, such as show cause hearings and probation checks? If you choose to be a knucklehead and violate your probation, does the fee include services for representation on the your probation violation charge? These are all the types of questions you need to ask when looking to hire a lawyer. Obviously, not these exact questions, unless you were recently cited for DUI, but you get the idea. Often, you can negotiate exactly what services you would like. This could mean an increase in fee if the services negotiated for are outside the ordinary; or it could mean a reduction in fee, if there are certain tasks you do not wish your lawyer to perform, but usually come standard. The bottom line is that in most situations it is important to discuss both fees and services in detail before officially forming an attorney-client relationship.
Where do I Begin?
The first place most people will look when they are in need of legal counsel is to their family and friends. Not everyone has an attorney in his or her family, but most people have at least had some experience with one, and if the experience was good, that lawyer may serve as at least a good starting place in your lawyer search. Whether you are shopping for a lawyer or any other type of service provider, using the people you know as a starting point is always a good idea. And remember, if you are looking for a criminal lawyer or personal injury attorney, but only are familiar with an estate planning attorney, give that person a call. Most likely he or she will know other lawyer who practice in the areas of law you are looking for, and most times he or she will be willing to give you some referrals to serve as a starting point in your lawyer search.
The next place people will often go is the Internet. Most prefer the Internet over the phone book for obvious reasons. Online websites and lawyer profiles typically offer a person more insight into the law office they are researching. Where ads in the yellow pages are usually overwhelming in number, as well as limited in information; online resources are able to provide pictures, background information and client reviews or testimonials.
The last place people will go, usually because they feel they have nowhere else to go, is the phonebook. Even when using the phonebook or an online lawyer directory, it is a good idea to visit websites and review client reviews before setting up any intial consultations.
How do I Decide?
Well, it’s not easy. Again, as mentioned above the most important thing is to be comfortable with the person who will be representing you. You need to feel confident that you can trust your attorney, and that you understand exactly what it is your attorney is going to try to do for you. A few suggestions to take into account when interviewing prospective lawyers are referenced above; however, there are endless other issues to keep in mind depending on what is important to you; things as basic as location, office hours, direct access, support staff, size of the firm, and so on. Searching for the right attorney does not have to be as complicated and daunting as some make it out to be. The key is to do a little preparation ahead of time and make sure that you have a specific plan of action.