Hiring an Attorney
Do I need an attorney?
Our law office gets this question on a daily basis. If a situation arises in which you are asking this question, then the simple answer is yes, you probably need an attorney. But let’s get more specific . . .
What if I am under investigation and have not (yet) been charged with a crime?
During a law enforcement investigation, an officer or detective will contact suspects or persons of interest in order to get statements to make a case. Initially, it might be a phone call with some simple questions, or you might be asked to come down to the station for a chat. To quote Admiral Ackbar,
DO NOT DISCUSS THE FACTS OF THE CASE WITH ANYONE – FAMILY, FRIENDS, STRANGERS, AND ESPECIALLY LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL – AND CERTAINLY NOT BEFORE CONSULTING AN ATTORNEY FIRST!
By law, you are not required to answer any questions or voluntarily meet with a police officer, an agent, or a detective, other than to present identification. The police will conduct their investigation with or without your input. Do not do their job for them, regardless whether you believe that you are guilty, or not guilty, of any wrongdoing. If the police wish to question you about an alleged crime of which you have knowledge, you should contact an attorney immediately.
What if I am under arrest or have been detained for questioning?
Please see our FAQ Guide on What To Do If You Are Arrested
Won’t I look guilty if I hire an attorney?
To paraphrase the fictional defense attorney in the television show Better Call Saul, it’s getting arrested that makes someone look guilty, even the innocent ones. The police are already suspicious, that’s why they want to question you. Worry less about how you might appear and focus on protecting yourself. Attorneys are like insurance; better to have one and not need him than need him and not have one.
When should I hire an attorney?
Generally speaking, it is best to hire an attorney early in the legal process. Most people have no experience with the criminal justice system; therefore having a criminal law expert on your side to guide you and be available to answer any questions is beneficial. Hiring an attorney early will also insulate you from an investigation and allow them to act as a buffer between you and law enforcement.
On a practical level, the sooner you hire an attorney, the more time to they have prepare your defense and address any problems early before they get any worse.
How do I find the best attorney?
No such thing.
OK . . . how do I find the RIGHT attorney?
Like any major decision, hiring the right attorney requires research. There are thousands of attorneys advertising their skills and experience; you want to carefully consider your options in order to find the best attorney for you. Consider these factors when consulting with an attorney:
While this is an obvious consideration, it is should not be the most important. The consequences of going cheap are devastating. You do not get a do over if your lawyer does not do a good job. You can fix the mess made by a repairman at your home, but do you want to hire a cheap physician to do your surgery? And by and large, bad legal work is even harder to fix than bad medical care.
Of course you have to be able to afford your attorney, but as the saying goes: you get what you pay for. Simple fact: a low fee attorney cannot spend time on your case. And - there is probably a reason why the fee is so low. Beware of case mills – law firms that do a large number of cases. Having a volume practice limits the amount of time that the attorney can spend on your case. They function to produce a high flow of income on a large number of clients paying smaller fees. A high fee does not guarantee that you have the best attorney, but it is a good indicator that the attorney is doing something right to be able to charge that fee. As consumers, we often associate cost with quality, but you have to consider other factors, as well.
Experience and knowledge
These often go hand in hand. It is likely that the more experience an attorney has, the more knowledge the attorney has gained over the years. This is not always true, but it is a good starting point. That is not to say that a new or young attorney will not have the knowledge and expertise to provide quality representation, so be sure to ask them plenty of questions during the consultation.
This is a quality that is often overlooked when seeking an attorney but is arguably the most important. If you are seeking a criminal defense attorney, you or someone you care about, is facing the most trying period of their lives and has a lot at stake. Make sure that whomever you choose is a good fit. Are they someone with whom you can have a good working relationship with for the duration of the case? Do they genuinely care about the welfare of their clients? Are they going to be an aggressive advocate for your case and put forth the necessary time and dedication to get the best result possible for their clients? These are the most important questions to consider when selecting an attorney. If the answer is “yes” to these questions, then you probably have the RIGHT attorney.
Stay far away from any attorney who makes promises of future results. That is not only unethical; it is plain and simple lying. An attorney is not permitted to guarantee, and has no way of guaranteeing a specific result of a case. Attorneys can certainly give likely scenarios based upon previous experience, but any attorney who promises to get a charge dismissed or assures you will only get probation if you are convicted, is likely lying, and the attorney’s lack of ethics and honesty in this matter should call into question the attorney’s ability to ably fight for you.
What Should You Do?
Call the attorney. Set up an appointment. Ask your questions. Listen to the answers. Most of all, while your mind analyzes the attorney’s answers, let your heart tell you whether this is the person whom you want fighting for you.