How to Hire an Attorney - 7 Key Areas To Consider Before Choosing Your Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, finding a good criminal defense lawyer can be an overwhelming task. Already stressed from your arrest and charge, you don’t know who you can trust.
This article is a guide to help you find a trustworthy and competent criminal defense lawyer.
Beware of Big Promises
In the interviewing and hiring phase, any lawyer you talk to will not have seen all the evidence used to charge you with a crime. Without knowing what evidence was used, it's irresponsible for a lawyer to tell you what the outcome of your case will be. They simply don’t have all the information yet.
Lawyers are governed by a set of rules called the Rules of Professional Conduct. Those rules prohibit us from making guarantees about the outcome of a case, or promising that we have special connections that will help you get a better outcome. South Carolina Rules of Professional Conduct state: “A lawyer shall not make false, misleading, or deceptive communications about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services. A communication violates this rule if it: … (b) is likely to create an unjustified expectation about results the lawyer can achieve, or states or implies that the lawyer can achieve results by means that violate the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.”
At Erin Bailey Law, we tell all of our clients that the only guarantee we can make them is that we will fight like hell for them. While the outcome of your case is not up to us; it's up to a judge, a prosecutor, or a jury, the representation we provide you in the course of your case will make you feel like we’ve got your back.
Beware of Scare Tactics
In an effort to get a big fee out of you, some lawyers will scare you in that first phone call by emphasizing the maximum sentence you could receive for all the charges against you. They may tell you that if you don’t pay for their services, you will be going to prison for a very long time.
The truth is that those maximum sentences are generally reserved for the worst offenders, with the worst criminal histories, under the worst circumstances. Just as a lawyer cannot guarantee you the outcome in your case, they also can’t say what sentence you may receive without looking at all the evidence.
At Erin Bailey Law, we want our clients to leave their first meeting feeling calmer and more assured that everything is under control, and they have passed the “worry baton” off to us. We aren’t here to scare you. You are most likely already terrified, worried, or angry.
Ask What is Included
Some lawyers charge a different fee if the case is a plea, a trial, or a diversion program. While this may save you some money up front, it may mean that your decision about whether or not to take a plea bargain is an economic decision, just as much as a decision about your future. It could also leave you in a position where your lawyer is pressuring you to take a plea bargain or pay them more money.
At Erin Bailey Law, we always want the resolution of our clients case to be the client’s decision and the client’s decision alone. The long term harm to a client from having a criminal record, serving on probation, or even doing prison time needs to be something the client takes on after being fully informed of their options, the evidence against them, and any defenses available.
Notice what’s not included in that decision making metric? MONEY. We charge one lump sum fee for your case, whether it is resolved by trial, plea, diversion, or dismissal. We also will not nickel and dime you for expenses, phone calls, or hourly fees.
Ask About Communication
The number one complaint against lawyers is a lack of communication with clients. Ask how often you will meet with or talk to your lawyer. Ask if you will speak to the lawyer directly or if you will speak to a paralegal. Ask when you should expect to hear from your lawyer again. Ask if you will have a meeting to review all the evidence against you and discuss your defenses.
At Erin Bailey Law, once you hire us, you will have your lawyer’s cell phone number. We don’t believe in communication through a middleman. You can call or text with your lawyer directly. We have an internal standard that all calls will be returned within 24 hours. You will also have access to a client portal to review your discovery and any case documents at any time.
While our rules of professional conduct prohibit lawyers from using the word “specialize” in all but a few instances, in the modern practice of law, most lawyers focus their practice on one or two primary practice areas. You probably do not want to choose a corporate lawyer to defend you in a criminal case, even if they are a really, really good corporate lawyer.
When interviewing lawyers, you need to ask how many criminal cases they have handled. Specifically ask how many criminal cases have they handled in the court where your charges are? Ask how many jury trials they have under their belt. Don’t be afraid to be specific, and don’t be intimidated by a lawyer. You are paying them your hard earned money, and you deserve to pick the right lawyer for you.
At Erin Bailey Law, we have experienced lawyers who have a track record in all levels of the courts. Erin Bailey has tried dozens of cases to jury verdict, and handled thousands of cases over the course of her career.
Believe it or not, in every county in the state, the Courts run just a little differently. Many counties have standing administrative orders that only apply in that county. Each county prosecutor has different policies on plea offers for different kinds of cases. In addition to the local courts, you need a lawyer who can guide you through all the players in the criminal justice system, including bondsman, law enforcement, and the jail.
When you choose local, you aren’t choosing the lawyer because they have connections, you are choosing them because they have the experience to know who to call to make things happen for you.
At Erin Bailey Law, we have been practicing in Georgetown, South Carolina for 15 years. Our law firm focuses on Georgetown, Horry, and Charleston County Courts.
Find the Right Fit
The most important thing to consider as you decide which lawyer to hire in your criminal case is that you find the right fit. You need to feel confident that the lawyer you hire will fight for you and has your back. You need to feel confident that the lawyer will listen to your fears, worries, and concerns, and take those on. You need to feel confident that no matter the outcome, you will feel like your lawyer really had your back through the entire process.