Five Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer
One of the things that a prospective client should think about before they hire an attorney is what questions they should ask the individual attorney so they get a good feel that they’re compatible with the individual, so that they have a good sense that they’re in good hands quite frankly. There are about five things you should touch upon.
First of all, does the attorney have experience in this particular subject matter? It might be anything from drugs to sex offenses to bank robbery, whatever it might be. Is there an experience level there? Because experience is really important in the practice of law. The second item is in terms of experience, what jurisdiction are they in? We’re in Springfield, Illinois. Springfield is the state capital. Every state capital has a federal court. We have federal court and state court. Some people are very competent in state court, can’t find the bathroom in federal court. You better make sure that the individual has knowledge of the particular jurisdiction that you’re in.
Finally, in terms of experience, has the person had some trials. Now they don’t have to be lead counsel on every case. Attorneys come in to the practice, they’re young men and women out of law school and they’re going to be doing second chair in cases, but have they been in trial practice? You want somebody who has actually practiced the law in front of a judge, in front of a jury. That is very important for a number of things, negotiating possible plea agreements. The prosecutor has to know that you’re willing to go to trial. People who have been to trial are willing to go to trial. If they’d rather not, usually the path of least resistance is the best one for a client, but quite often you have to go to trial so be prepared along those lines.
Second area you need to talk to the attorney about is what is going to constitute the litigation team. You have such things as an investigator, in Springfield anyway. Most law firms don’t have a don’t have a investigator on retainer, nor do they have expert witnesses on retainer. What they do is they’ve had an experience with investigators and expert witnesses. They know who to call upon. You want to ask about those types of things. Is there a paralegal who’s going to be assigned to my case? Is there a co-counsel. For instance, if I’m the lead attorney on the case, I want to make sure that I have a co-counsel, because I might be in trial and there may be an important issue or question come up concerning your case so that you have somebody who can step into those shoes and handle it.
Finally, are they available? If they’re out playing golf on Thursday afternoon, they’re really not helping me a whole lot. Are they available on the weekends, at night? are they willing to provide for me the necessary time and energy that I want on a very serious issue for me, criminal charges? Then, what am I looking for? Why am I here? What am I looking at? So that you have issues, you want to ask the attorney what are the charges, what are the potential penalties, what are the potential defenses I have? Those are logical issues to ask.
Then, number four, what are my prospects? Where do you see this heading? What does the compass direction tell you? Most of the time in an initial consultation the attorney can’t tell you a whole lot because they’re flying without radar if you well. They haven’t seen the discovery. They haven’t had their investigator out there. They haven’t seen or talked to prosecutor on the case. You got to get some sense of what your prospects are. Then finally, the last thing I would ask the attorney is we’re going to hire you, that’s fine. We want to know how much it is and what your first three action steps are. Because you may not be able to hire the attorney. You may not be able to afford her. This has all been a wonderful exercise but if you can’t afford them, then you better find somebody who can take care of you in that regard.
Public defenders are very good people, very good attorneys. You may qualify for a public defender. Generally, most people get what they pay for. That’s an issue always you have with attorneys. Doesn’t mean the most expensive attorney is the best one, but it does mean that you’re going to get certain commitments that you do hire and retain privatively.