Hiring a Lawyer

Lawrence J. Zimmerman

How to Hire a Lawyer

Hiring a lawyer is usually done because something important is at stake. People rarely understand how to find the best attorney for their situation. This article provides you with things you need to know before you contact a lawyer and offers specific advice for hiring top criminal defense attorneys.

Step 1: How to Get a Lawyer to Take Your Case

Hiring a lawyer occurs only after the attorney decides to take your case. For various reasons, most law firms do not take on every single person who contacts their law firm. This means that your first step is to make your case attractive to a lawyer.

What makes a case of interest to a law firm?

For strictly financial reasons a law firm would love to represent every single person who walks through the door. Ethical law firms recognize that taking every case is not fair to the clients or wise for the practice. To move forward and achieve optimal results the client and attorney need to be well matched.

Here is what a lawyer may consider before accepting a new client:
  • How much time will this case require, and can I do a good job for my client with respect to my active caseload? A lawyer needs time to research, investigate, communicate and plan each case. A seemingly small change can require a lot of time to implement the process. A prospective lawyer needs to understand your case to determine if they have the available time to provide the best possible legal representation.
  • How much “non-productive time” will this client consume? A lawyer knows that their clients want timely updates on their case. Lawyers will communicate notable developments as they happen. The reality is that a lawyer is running a business, and simply cannot do their core job and divert hours every day to phone calls, texts, and emails when there is nothing worthwhile to communicate.
  • How interesting of a case does the person have? If there are novel and interesting issues, this always makes the lawyer want to help out. Some lawyers will even charge less money to get involved in an interesting case.
  • Does the client seem receptive to the lawyer’s game plan? A good lawyer will early on develop a strategy and try to cultivate the case around it. While the strategy may change depending on the evidence, clearly, whether or not the client is receptive to it is an important factor. Representing an individual can be a long and hard process, so it is important that the team has their eyes on the same ball. Disagreements are always normal and part of the process but the client must be receptive to the lawyer’s strategy or the lawyer will not want the case.
  • Where is the venue the case is being prosecuted or investigated? This is an important factor cause that can also determine costs. The further a lawyer has to travel since most criminal defense lawyers do not charge by the hour can greatly increase your costs. In addition, it is important as to whether the lawyer feels comfortable in that location. Our firm has gone to other states and counties all over Georgia where we have never been. Our work speaks for itself and that is what counts in most places. There are times when we have brought in a local lawyer to assist as well. Interestingly, we have been hired by local lawyers in outlying counties to come in help because the local lawyers were too ingrained in the local bar and were reluctant to make a fuss.

A few of our beliefs

It is important we have time to focus on the case, return all phone calls, and strategize with the client in preparing a defense. If we have too many clients or clients that consume too much time on unimportant matters, it can impair our ability to do our best possible work. For example, if we spend 3 hours on a series of 15-20 phone calls when there is nothing to share, important phone calls get delayed, critical meetings are cut short, and it will be challenging to find adequate time to formulate a game plan for clients. While we strive to provide timely communication with clients via telephone, email, and in-person meetings we have to be very mindful of how we spend our time.

Step 2: Find top local lawyers

AVVO is a great website to get more information, including legitimate reviews, about lawyers in your area. If you look at our criminal lawyer reviews on AVVO you can read actual client comments on how we dedicate proper time to managing cases and communicating with clients. It is unfortunate that lawyers have a reputation for not communicating with their clients since we are in the job of communicating. Truthfully, there are only so many hours in a day and a lawyer cannot return two hundred phone calls. Our firm is a low volume, highly trained firm equipped to deal with all your concerns.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Lawyer?

Hiring a lawyer is obviously a very important decision. However, the problem that most people run into when searching for the right lawyer is cost. Lawyers across the spectrum charge different fees, but most good lawyers, charge fees in accordance with their experience and reputation in the community.

Additionally, a key factor when a lawyer is setting fees is to know whether they have a high volume of clientele or a low volume of clientele. The complexity and seriousness of the case will also affect the fee a lawyer will charge as well.

Most criminal defense lawyers do not charge hourly fees unless there are circumstances that call for it. For instance, when serving as a federal defense attorney, our firm will sometimes bill hourly for federal investigations if our client is a company. In other instances, we will bill hourly if we are unsure of what the case is really going to entail, then we will convert it into a flat fee at some point.

What About Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Hiring a criminal defense lawyer requires serious thought. Criminal law is an area for changing things after a verdict is extremely difficult, sometimes impossible. You need to know that your lawyer has substantial experience in handling cases similar to yours. For example, experience in DUI defense cases is quite different than defending someone charged with a felony crime. You also need to know that if the charges cannot be dropped, or your case cannot be negotiated, it will go to a trial. When hiring a criminal defense lawyer you need to know that the attorney has a good track record in trials.

What Does a Criminal Defense Lawyer Do?

Television portrays being a criminal defense lawyer as simply wearing a nice suit and going through 20 minutes of dramatic arguments to win a case. The truth is a criminal defense attorney has to invest countless hours of research, preparation, writing, travel and waiting in courthouse offices before a case is settled. Below is a simplified list of what a criminal defense lawyer does for a typical client facing only a minor charge. Clients with felony charges often require time to manage their case.

  • Meet with client, friends and family members to get a background.
  • Contact law enforcement or the prosecuting attorney to gain an understanding of the case.
  • File pleadings including legal challenges to the State’s case.
  • Interview the necessary witnesses to prove that the case against the accused is not true.
  • Bring in others on our team which includes our large network of investigators, polygraphers, forensic examiners and others who may be of assistance in the matter.
  • Do the necessary legal research to get a clear understanding of the issues and the laws involved.

For high-profile cases you want to hire a lawyer who is experienced in dealing with the Press. Being able to protect you from news reporters, including being your public spokesperson, is extremely valuable. In addition, a lawyer with experience in managing high-profile cases can advise you on how to avoid image problems in public, in court or in communications. When eyes are on you 24/7 you need to know how to protect your image.

How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Criminal Defense Attorney?

There is no simple answer to a question about the cost for a lawyer. This is similar to asking how much does a house cost.

Factors that affect the cost of legal representation.

  • The type of case (i.e., misdemeanor, felony)
  • How the case is resolved (i.e., negotiated, jury trial)
  • The law firm’s overhead costs (i.e., office, staff size, etc. )
  • Outside services which may be required (i.e., investigators, expert witness, etc. )

Obviously, coming up with money to pay a lawyer is a top concern for the average person. When your reputation, freedom, and future are at stake you should look at the value of services. Fees are set at a rate that allows the lawyer to turn away other clients, so they can handle your case without needing to divert their time.

Beware of the cheapest lawyers. Criminal defense lawyers who charge little money are not going to do the hard work needed to protect you. An exception could be a lawyer in a very small rural town, however; very low rates for legal representation are usually a red flag. Low fees may indicate a new lawyer with little experience, a less skilled lawyer who struggles to get clients or a firm that is having financial challenges. The old adage “you get what you pay for” is something to keep in mind.

Criminal Defense Lawyers with Payment Plans

Hiring a lawyer often requires applying some creativity in how to pay. Not only do you have your future to worry about but you still need to support your household which may include a spouse and children, or even an ex-spouse and of course other debts. Some law firms are very rigid about payments being made in full without delay. Our firm recognizes that not everyone has enough money to pay a lawyer in one or two payments. Our law firm is willing to work with people on payments, thereby enabling them to get exceptional representation.

What Happens If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer

If hiring a lawyer is beyond your financial capabilities a court-appointed lawyer (public defender) may be assigned to your case. If hiring a lawyer is not possible for you this link will show you how to receive indigent defense in Georgia.

How to Find a Good Criminal Defense Lawyer

The key thing to keep in mind is value. When your freedom and future are at stake, within reason, cost alone should not be your main concern. You need to carefully research sites like AVVO to find a few potential lawyers. Compare their experience, reviews, reputation and track record. Call to make an appointment and show up with your own questions. Your goal in hiring a lawyer should be to get the best representation you can afford.

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