Illinois Lawyer Referrals and Legal Guidance
What Should I Ask a Criminal Lawyer Before Hiring Them?
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Hiring the right criminal defense lawyer can be the difference between freedom and years in jail. You can never guarantee that you have picked the correct attorney, but before paying money for a lawyer, we suggest that you ask tough questions. Here are 10 suggestions that will hopefully help you make the right decision.
- How much of your practice is criminal law? If 90% or more of the attorney’s practice is criminal law, you are likely in better hands than if it is less than 50%. If it is less than 50%, you may be better served by searching for another attorney.
- Have you worked on similar criminal cases? You want an attorney who has seen cases like yours before. Even if your case is extremely unique, you want an attorney who is experienced enough to handle your case. You have too much at risk to be represented by someone "getting his feet wet" with your case.
- Who specifically will be working on my case? Oftentimes, a very senior attorney or partner will meet with you but, as your case proceeds, a more junior attorney will actually handle it. Find out. Again, you do not want anyone using your case as a learning experience. You want someone with years of experience who has seen cases like yours before. Don’t be afraid to insist on knowing who is working on your case.
- Are you familiar with the judges and prosecutors in the county where I have been charged? This is extremely important. Any rapport a criminal defense attorney has with a prosecutor and/or judge can only help you. A certain level of familiarity already established can be useful in handling logistical and other matters related to your case.
- What can I do to help my case? A good criminal defense lawyer will ask you to work with him in gathering all documentation necessary to properly defend you. You may be asked to write down a summary of the events, asked to talk to witnesses or be told to do nothing. You want an attorney who wants to be on top of your case, and also works as a team with you.
- What do you think is the right strategy for my case? You may or may not want to strike a plea deal. Your attorney may always plea bargain or never plea bargain. Find out. Talk about it. Make sure that you understand the issues, have evaluated your options and weighed the consequences. This open dialogue with a potential attorney should reveal whether you have the same goals and whether he will be a good fit.
- Is there anything else I should be considering? Again, you want a lawyer who has seen it all. You want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases and a good criminal lawyer will help you see the big picture and evaluate your situation.
- How will the fees be charged? Most criminal attorneys handle cases on a flat fee basis. Get them to put what the charges will be in writing and make sure it’s clear whether or not there will be more charges if the case takes longer or goes to trial.
- Since you are familiar with the facts, what is a likely scenario for how my case will play out? No Illinois criminal lawyer can guarantee a result. That said, an experienced attorney should be able to provide an educated guess as to what will happen, the likely scenarios and what strategy they will use if hired in order to achieve success for you.
- When and how will we communicate? What are you comfortable with? If you get phone calls when there are significant developments and email status updates when there are not, would that make you feel connected? Talk about it with your lawyer and make sure you are comfortable with the level of communication you will receive. You are paying for his services and should receive the proper amount of correspondence to stay abreast of your case, no matter how busy your lawyer is.
None of these questions can assure you that you have made the right decision, but they are a good predictor for success. If you would like our help in finding the right attorney for your unique situation, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time. All inquiries are free and confidential.