You need to make sure an attorney you are considering has a good reputation in the community. I get a lot of my clients just from referrals from other lawyers, and also from prior clients. Take a look at their website and read the reviews. Almost all criminal lawyers give free consultations, so you might as well talk to two or three of them. A lot of it is just going by your instincts and whether you feel comfortable with that attorney or not.
One thing that I am surprised by is when people tell me that a lawyer was judgmental or unkind to them. Why would you pay money for someone to be mean to you? People sometimes think that lawyers are supposed to be mean. However, with most areas of the law, you are going to need a lawyer that is going to be able to get along with the prosecutors and the police. If he is a blowhard in an expensive suit, he is not going to be the most effective for you.
My philosophy is this, I am always nice up until the point where I need to be mean and that is why I am able to negotiate some really good deals. People also know that I am willing to fight if I have to.
Be very wary of any attorney that promises any kind of results because ethically we are not allowed to do that. Do not hire any lawyer who implies that he can get your charge dismissed by some unethical means. Sometimes a lawyer may imply bribery or influence over the judge, or influence over the prosecutors. The fact of the matter is, lawyers like that eventually get caught and they may be disbarred by the time your case comes to trial. You are not going to be able to get that money back that you paid.
Some people say they want a lawyer that has a fancy car and a fancy suit, but you just have to remember, you are paying for all that. If that is what a client wants, that is fine. The main thing you have to do is make sure that you hire someone that is going to listen to your side and not just talk. This person needs to be creative in looking for solutions and not just trying to do things the way that they have always been done. I cannot really give specific examples of that, because I do not want people to know my secrets but there are all sorts of ways to do alternative things other than bribery.
We have a lot of people from the North that go to the University of South Carolina. Often I will have clients from there whose mothers or fathers want to talk to me before hiring me. I will give phone consultations or talk to them on Skype. You do not have to come down to South Carolina to hire a good lawyer. You can get a feeling when you talk to somebody in person or on Skype.
You have to go with your instincts, but you also have to do some research. Another thing is, do not go by price. If somebody is charging less than everybody else, then they are probably taking a lot of volume, which means they are not going to be able to give your case individual attention. You get what you pay for, just like with anything else.
You should also make sure that the lawyer you are talking to is the one that is going to handle your case. It is always a good idea to make sure he is not going to hand it over to some associate that you do not necessarily feel good about. That is not an issue with us, because I am a sole practitioner.
You also need to ask the attorney what his policy is on returning calls and communication. I tell my clients if they want to text me or email me, it is going to be a lot easier for me to respond because I can be sitting in court waiting and I can reply immediately whereas I cannot call them.
I hear complaints all the time that lawyers will not return people’s calls or will not talk to them. You need to ask about that. There is no reason to pester your lawyer because the more you pester them for no reason, then that is time he is not spending on your case. However, you ought to be able to have updates given to you regularly. All lawyers spend a lot of dead time in court, and that is when I try to answer my emails. If a lawyer is too busy to keep his client updated, then you do not want him.
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