Being charged with a crime can be one of the most stressful and potentially devastating events in one’s life. Hiring an experienced, knowledgeable and effective defence lawyer is an essential first step to taking control of the situation; but how best to do that?
Here are some basic tips:
- Obtain a referral from a trusted friend, work colleague or family member. If this is not possible, consider calling up a lawyer you may know, even if they practice in another area of the law; they might know of a lawyer to recommend based on a general reputation within legal community.
- Research the lawyer online. Most firms have web sites that detail their lawyers’ criminal law experience, often with examples of criminal cases they have conducted.
- Consider whether the lawyer practices exclusively criminal law, as opposed to being a “Jack of all trades.” The former is preferable as criminal practice requires highly specialized knowledge and experience.
- Consider whether the lawyer belongs to criminal lawyer associations, or lectures on criminal law topics at law schools or to other lawyers. This provide a good indication as to their involvement and reputation in the criminal law community.
- Once you have narrowed down your search to a few options, contact the actual lawyer(s) you are interested in and see if they can provide some basic information over the phone for no charge, or better yet, agree to a free initial meeting for a more in depth discussion of your problem and their initial thoughts about your situation. Such a meeting should leave you with a sense of confidence that the lawyer knows their “stuff”, is an effective communicator, and is someone that you feel you can deal with in an honest and effective way.
Fees & Rates
At your initial meeting do not be reluctant to bring up what the fees will likely be, and be honest as to what your financial limitations are in response. Criminal lawyers generally quote on a flat rate basis for the services to be performed (eg. trial, bail application), and can usually give you a rough idea what the range of fees would be for each specific service at your first meeting with them. Larger firms will normally have a range of fee options that they can provide depending on the seniority and particular experience of the lawyer selected. Final fees can generally only be quoted once the lawyer has reviewed the police evidence against you, and you finalize how you wish to proceed.
This step typically requires an “initial retainer” to be paid in order to obtain and review the evidence from the prosecution. At this stage the lawyer should be able to detail their fees to completion of your case, as well as the plan for your defence. If you feel confident in both the lawyer’s approach to your case and the reasonableness of the quoted fees you have found your lawyer.