After you've narrowed down your list of possible attorneys to work with, it still may be hard to decide who will best represent you. Finding quality legal advice is hard, but armed with these ten tips below, you’ll be able to see right through the sketchy lawyers.
Review The Contract
A lawyer is only as good as the contract that they’re bound to, so make sure that you thoroughly review the letter of engagement before signing it. A good tip is that you should have your attorney under contract to help you navigate the complex post-trial DUI process. Even after you’ve left the courtroom, there are a lot of procedural steps that must be taken care of if you don’t want to be slapped with some jail time. Many DUI attorneys are only under contract until you walk out of the courtroom doors, so make sure you clarify with the attorney before putting down your John Hancock.
Look For Quality, Not Quantity
Be extremely cautious if an attorney’s most prominent selling point is how many years they’ve been in practice. Though this may indicate quality, for all you know, they’ve been the worst attorney in the U.S. for the last 25 years. If a lawyer tries to tout their experience, ask for examples of similar cases to yours and what the outcomes were. These benchmarks will give you a better idea of what you can expect if you decide to go with this attorney.
Avoid General Practitioners
General practitioners are exactly what you would expect from the name, an attorney that covers basically all areas of law with no real “focus.” Though these attorneys make excellent “family lawyers” who can help you with various problems, you should avoid them if you are charged with a DUI/DWAI. The reason for this is simple; DUI’s are extremely complicated and very rarely cut-and-dry like IP or business entity applications. Furthermore, unlike most criminal cases, there’s a substantial amount of forensic science to review, constitutional rights to consider, and bizarre exceptions to utilize within DUI/DWAI cases. An attorney whose main focus is DUI’s will inherently know the subtleties to get you a lessened sentence.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t even count how many people I know who genuinely hate their attorney for one reason or another. It’s extremely difficult to gauge someone’s personality over the phone, so you should always meet the person representing you in court face-to-face before signing a contract. You wouldn’t hire a dog-walker who didn’t care about your dogs, so why hire someone who’s indifferent about the potentially life-long consequences of your DUI’s?
Discount Attorneys That Do Not Actually Offer A Discount
You should always hire the best attorney that falls within your budget. Firstly, getting legal representation is similar to getting a tattoo. Sure, there are cheap tattoo artists out there, but do you really want to try and find deals on something that’ll stay with you the rest of your life? A cheap attorney is cheap for a reason, and a lot of times you ‘get what you pay for’ when trying to save a few bucks. With lower prices, these attorneys inherently need to serve more clients in order to make a living. This means that they are busier and thus, are far more likely to make mistakes. Though there’s a pretty severe minimum sentence that comes with DUI cases, the punishments can vary drastically. With this in mind, you may actually be saving money by getting a slightly more expensive lawyer that negotiates a better verdict for you.
If The Attorney Is A Bad Negotiator
If you get the feeling that the attorney is too passive or too aggressive while talking to you, proceed with caution. Most DUI cases are handled outside of court, in negotiations between your lawyer and the prosecutor. This means that you’ll want to hire someone who really understands the intricacies of persuasion and aren’t too pushy or too much of a pushover.
Watch For The ‘Bait And Switch’
If you’re looking at larger law firms for representation, you should be very wary of this ‘bait and switch’ technique. If you are meeting with a partner at the firm, make sure it’s clear whether you’ll be working directly with them or if one of their associates will be taking the case. If the latter is true, request to meet with the associate handling your case before signing any contracts.
Review The Contract Again
Probably one of the biggest complaints people have with their attorneys is that ‘the attorneys overcharged them for their services.’ Attorneys understand the subtleties of contract law extremely well, so make sure that the terms of agreement are in wording that you very clearly understand. If you are the least bit unsure about anything in the contract, ask for clarification, and if necessary, request a revision of the contract.
You should be able to get a hold of your attorney fairly easily, without having to continuously leave messages with their secretary. If your attorney lacks communication skills, it will lead to a disconnect within the courtroom, and ultimately a worse outcome for you.
If all else fails, trust your gut. Even if the prospective attorney is a great fit on paper, with nothing on this list raising ‘red flags,’ you still could not feel a “connection” with them. In these cases, simply go with another attorney, as your instinct is a good indicator of whether or not the relationship will be mutually beneficial.
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