Here are 10 examples of the kind of questions to ask when you meet a criminal lawyer for the first time.
- What was the result in your last jury trial?
- When was your last jury trial?
- Why did you win or lost that case?
- When do you plan on visiting the client? (If the person accused of a crime is already in custody)
- What is your policy on returning phone calls and emails?
- Other than yourself, who will have access to my private information? Will the work be done directly by you or will all my contact be with a less experienced associate?
- Will this case require an investigator or expert witness? How much is the anticipated expense of that?
- What other areas of the law do you practice?
- What is the expected billing arrangement? Will it be hourly, a flat fee, and how much would you anticipate this will cost total?
- Why should I hire you?
Each of these 10 questions bring up an important red flag. If you are meeting with a criminal lawyer for the first time, keep these in mind and when a red flag comes up- do not ignore it. Ask more questions about it to find out what happened.
Question number one is all about whether or not the lawyer has experience and the skills necessary to win the case for you. If the lawyer has never tried a case or refuses to answer the question- you may not want them to represent you in a criminal case. Also, this question allows the lawyer to be honest with you. If the lawyer handles major felonies, then they may try only a few cases each year because they are very big cases with long prison sentences at stake. That type of lawyer will probably explain to you exactly when their last trial was, what the charges were, and what the verdict was. Most importantly, you should avoid a lawyer that appears to lie when asked this question.
Question number two is again looking to eliminate the liars and fast talkers. If the lawyer says that they try a criminal case every week- ask them how long that trial lasted. If they say it was longer than 1 day long, you may want to avoid that lawyer. Again, this is about eliminating the liars and fast talkers.
Question number three is looking at the lawyer's attitude. If the lawyer blames the judge or claims the jurors were stupid- then you might have a problem.
Question number four is really a check up on question number one and two. If the accused are currently held in jail and the lawyer is claiming to have handled this kind of case before, that lawyer better have a quick, specific answer of their plan to visit the client in jail. Inability to quickly or realistically answer this question suggests the lawyer does not have the level of experience he or she claims.
Question number five is all about gauging the lawyer's level of commitment to clients. If the lawyer says they have an answering machine and will call you back, you should not expect to hear from them right away in an emergency.
Question number six asks "other than yourself, who will have access to my private information? Will the work be done directly by you, or will all my contact be with a less experienced associate?" This question is designed to weed out lawyers that will charge you a premium for their name and prestige, but have a less experienced person actually handle your case. A good answer will assure you that your privacy is important to the lawyer. A very good answer will assure you that support staff are involved in the case, but that the lawyer you get at court is the lawyer you are paying for.
Question number eight is especially important for lawyers that were recommended by someone that did not have a criminal case. Question number eight asks "What other areas of the law do you practice." If it becomes clear the lawyer specializes in some other area of the law, or lacks experience in criminal defense, ask them about it. Often, a lawyer that specializes in one are of the law genuinely wants to help you. If you know and trust a lawyer, consider asking them refer your case to a specialist for you. What you tell your friend will be confidential. And your friend may have gone to school or volunteered in the community with just the right person for the job. It is a graceful situation where friends are helping friends. Besides, friends are hard to come by- so keep them in that relationship.