These are the 7 questions to ask before hiring a criminal defense lawyer that will help you learn more about their experience, expertise, and approach. This information can help you determine if a criminal defense lawyer is the one for your or your loved one’s case.
Do You Have Experience With Cases Like Mine?
You should ask about a defense attorney’s experience with cases like yours so you can determine if they have the expertise you need to get the outcome you want. Expertise means years of experience handling these and similar cases. It could also mean specialized credentials and training in this area of law.
Some things to look out for in your prospective lawyer’s answer include:
- Board certifications from state and national criminal defense advocacy organizations
- Teaching experience in criminal defense in this area of criminal law
- Previous work on successful or prominent cases similar to yours
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Will I Be Working With You or an Associate?
In some cases, you meet with a lawyer to discuss your case initially, but then your case is assigned to an associate. These shifting expectations can be confusing and detrimental to your morale.
You need to know who will be representing you at all times. That way you know who to call when you have a question, who to go to for support, and who to build a rapport with for an effective, collaborative lawyer-client relationship.
Asking this question gives you an in to talk about your needs, get information on how other associates and team members will contribute to your case, and understand whether this lawyer or another will be the lead on your case.
At the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC, each case, regardless of assignment, is prepared as a team. The partner, associate, and paralegal, mitigation specialists, and investigators, will meet periodically for every case to make sure that the firm is pursuing any and all strategies for success.
What Outcome do You Think My Case Will Have?
No lawyer can accurately predict a specific outcome of your case. In fact, the PA Rues of Professional Conduct do not allow lawyers to guaraee outcomes or even discuss a percentage likelihood of winning. Any lawyer that promises you otherwise isn’t being entirely truthful, and possibly unethical. This question allows you to determine whether a lawyer is realistic, knowledgeable, and honest.
You can use this question to open the conversation about what your legal options are, what strategies might work in your case, and the pros and cons of each approach. It’s best to have a lawyer who gives you multiple outcomes, possible strategies to achieve the best ones possible, and backup plans in case things go in a different direction. Honesty, thoughtfulness, and preparedness are key.
How Often do Your Cases Go to Trial?
You can use this question to ask a lawyer about their:
- Courtroom experience
- Track record of success in court cases
- Approaches and strategies that helped them succeed in the courtroom
- Alternative strategies for success outside the courtroom
Whether or not you (or the lawyer) think your case will go to trial, it’s important to have a lawyer with courtroom experience — and success — just in case. Knowing how many cases they’ve taken to court shows their level of confidence and comfort in that setting. Knowing their success rate demonstrates how effective they are in building arguments, examining witnesses, and convincing juries.
This question also opens the conversation to case results, especially of those who faced similar charges to yours and the lawyer helped them achieve a positive outcome. That could include a suitable plea bargain or a jury verdict in their favor.
How Often do You Appear in the Court Where My Case Will Be Heard?
It’s also important to consider the benefits of getting a local lawyer who’s spent a good deal of time in the specific jurisdiction where your case is being heard. That’s because experience in a particular courtroom means they likely have a rapport with judges, prosecuting attorneys, and other court officials.
Even if they don’t have a rapport, they still understand the nuanced personalities, records for conviction or sentencing, and other information that helps them better collaborate with court officials to get you the best possible outcome. This is the unique power of a local criminal defense lawyer.
But there is some benefit to hiring a lawyer that doesn’t have a lot of experience in your jurisdiction. The prosecution won’t know the out-of-town lawyer’s record or personality as well, so there aren’t approaches they could anticipate and counter to win in court. Conversely, the out-of-town lawyer won’t know those nuances and could end up stepping on some toes.
When Will You Communicate With Me About My Case?
This question is a great way to discuss your expectations for communication, whether it’s for immediate updates in the case or regular meetings to touch base. You can learn how they like to collaborate with clients and whether they can make time for you. Communication is one of the most important characteristics you can ask for in a criminal defense attorney.
How Much do Your Services Cost?
Getting an effective criminal defense lawyer can be an investment. The cost of a criminal defense lawyer often indicates their skills, experience level, and success. A really affordable lawyer may not provide you with the representation you need to get the outcome you want. And a lawyer that’s out of your price range may have what you need, but you must determine if they can accommodate your financial circumstances.
That’s why you should always talk to a lawyer about how much retainer services cost and whether they offer payment plans.
Get a Free Consultation Today
You can ask these questions and more during your free consultation with a criminal defense lawyer from the Law Offices of M.J. Snyder, LLC. Contact our office today to get the answers you need.