As a Criminal Defense Lawyer who limits his Practice to Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County, you might expect that I would just tell someone looking for a local Lawyer to “hire me!” Instead, this article will focus on what I believe to be some of the more important factors to consider when looking to hire a Lawyer, so that a good, solid and friendly relationship can develop.
The process of hiring a Criminal Lawyer really begins only when someone has been arrested and/or charged with a Crime. For the person charged, as well as any close family or friends, it’s usually a very stressful time, and hardly the right time to try and practice good consumer skills. Unfortunately, that sense of fear and need for help can also leave people rather vulnerable.
There really is no shortcut to shopping around. Check out Lawyer’s websites; read their Blogs. See what they have written about the kind of case you have. Make phone calls.
When my family and I moved into our home about 12 years ago, we needed a new Dentist. My wife looked around, and then began calling around. As she called different offices, she was struck by one office in particular. She told me that there was simply no way such a nice receptionist could be working for a Dentist who wasn’t equally as nice. And, as it turned out, she was right. I suppose it’s a variation of the saying that, by and large, the disposition of a dog is a reflection of the disposition of the family that owns it.
In my office, the person who answers the phone is really the “Director of First Impressions.” I really think that’s a good place to start. If the person answering the phone seems cold, or more interested in their chewing gum than the reason for your call, things are not likely to improve considerably as your call gets transferred down the line.
Another sure sign that things might be a little too “rinky-dink” is having your call answered by voice mail. Maybe it’s just me, but if I call a business of any kind and get the office voice mail, I just hang up and move onto the next.
In terms of Lawyers, several things should be kept in mind, especially when the people looking to hire one are in rather urgent need of help and comfort:
1. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Listen, everyone charged with a crime wants, more than anything else, for the whole thing to just go away. The truth, however, is that very few Criminal Charges “just go away. ”
Thus, when bombarded with legal terms such as “challenge,” “dismiss,” and “suppress,” and phrases like “have the case thrown out,” understand that as much as you’d want that to be the way things turned out, those things almost never happen.
2. The Lawyer you hire should have good listening skills. This means more than some “touchy-feely” thing listed by a person’s profile on a dating site. Beyond being just hearing your story, good listening skills mean that the Lawyer can address your concerns, and can correct any misunderstandings on your part as you discuss things.
3. You should get a clear answer to the question “what can you do for me?” That does not mean you are necessarily going to get the answer you want, but there should at least be a clear explanation for how your case is going to play out, even if it’s just a realistic best-case to worst-case scenario.
4. The Lawyer you hire should be a good fit for you. You know if you’re comfortable with someone or not. Beyond your being a bit nervous about the situation in general, the Lawyer you hire should put you at ease, not talk about how bad things could be, especially when he or she talks about being the one to save you from that scary fate. This is often a matter of first impressions. A poor first impression is highly unlikely to be reversed at a subsequent meeting. You should feel solidly comfortable about trusting a certain person to have your best interests at heart.
5. Fees are important. Everyone has a price range within which they can work. Make no mistake, Legal Fees, like braces for the kids’ teeth, are expensive. Most people will have to scrape and scrap to come up with the money to hire a Lawyer. As a result, there is a temptation to look for the lowest fee. The problem is that some people begin to become so fixated on that, they start hunting everywhere for the “lowest bidder.”
Paying a large fee is no guarantee of quality, but paying a really bargain-basement price generally proves the rule that you get what you pay for. I always try to stay somewhere in the middle range when I’m shopping around for anything, because too low a price means a discount on the quality of services, while too premium a price usually means getting “taken to the cleaners.” I think the same thing applies to hiring a Lawyer. A guy like me, with 20 years experience, knows he has something good to sell, and isn’t interested in competing with discount providers. But, as an honest Lawyer, I also try very hard to provide a level of service commensurate with my Fees.
That said, paying $5000 or $6000 for something like a 1st or 2nd Offense DUI is insane, unless those are “trial fees.” The same goes with any kind of case. Some people think they’re a bit more special than they perhaps are, and as a result, set ridiculous Fees. Form my point of view, they go in the same bin as the “low bidder” types.
6. The Lawyer you hire should know the Court where your case is pending. I think he or she should know it very well. This is why I confine my practice to Macomb, Oakland and parts of Wayne County. I go to the same Courts over and over again, and I know the Judges there, and how things work. Some may disagree with me, but I don’t think your case is the right time for your Lawyer to meet the Judge for the first time.
7. You should trust your gut. Above and beyond the few things I’ve outlined here, after meeting with someone, or talking to them, there is a little voice down in your gut that whispers its impression. Sometimes, that voice is drowned out by a chorus of encouragement to hire the person who threw around all those “challenge the stop,” “suppress the evidence,” “get the case dismissed” phrases because the desire to get those results, however unrealistic, can sometimes overcome a person’s better judgment. A person should however, pay closer attention to that little voice over any others, because it’s usually correct.
Finding the right Lawyer takes work. Even if you’re best friend got acquitted of a murder charge by some well-known, well-heeled, bigwig Attorney, that doesn’t make him or her the right one for you.
Earlier, I mentioned my wife’s search for a family Dentist. 12 years later, I think that was one of the best decisions we ever made. I love my Dentist. I can talk to him like a regular person, and I know I can always trust his judgment. Even if I have a problem that goes beyond his areas of Practice, I want to know what he thinks, first, because of that trust I have in him. That’s what you want when looking for a Lawyer.