How To Find an Attorney


If you have been arrested, you have certain rights, one of these being the right to request a lawyer. Remember that you may be limited to the amount of phone calls you can make, so it is a good idea to have a friend or relative locate a lawyer for you. You may be thinking ‘why do I need a lawyer?’ While you are not required to have one, a criminal defense lawyer can advise you of your rights, protect your interests and guide you through the complicated legal system that you are now faced with. The sooner you get a lawyer involved with your case, the better.

Important

  • You have the right to request an attorney.
  • Your phone calls will be limited, so make sure you call a lawyer, or get someone to do it for you.

Do You Really Need an Attorney?

Obviously, the need for a lawyer depends on the severity of the crime. While a speeding ticket or DUI may not necessarily warrant their services, if you are faced with anything more serious, it is essential. Remember, that you have the right to request a lawyer immediately. Once you make this request, you are not obliged to answer any more questions without your lawyer present. Do not agree to anything such participating in a lineup or having blood drawn until you have consulted with your lawyer.

Important

  • It is essential to get an attorney for most criminal charges.
  • Request an attorney immediately.
  • Don’t answer any questions until you’ve seen an attorney.

What If You Can’t Afford an Attorney?

If you do not hire a lawyer immediately, or you can’t afford one, you will be assigned a public defender at the time of your arraignment. If the charge is a misdemeanor, some courts will allow you to enter a plea at this time, and your lawyer will be able to advise you on this. If you have a bail hearing, you lawyer will file a motion for OR (own recognizance) release. This means that they are requesting that the court allows you to be released without bail, on condition that you agree to appear in court when necessary. Your lawyer will fight on your behalf to persuade the judge that you will make good on this.

Important

  • If you can’t afford an attorney, you will be assigned a public defender, which is basically a free lawyer that is provided for you by the court system.

If you are facing more serious charges, bail will be set. This is based on the severity of the crime, your character and previous record, and whether you are a flight risk. In the worst-case scenario, you may be denied bail altogether. If you lawyer considers the amount of bail set to be too high, they can file for a bail reduction.

How To Choose The Right Lawyer

Once you are out of jail awaiting trial, you have certain choices: you can stick with the lawyer you originally called or the public defender that was assigned to you, or you can pick a new lawyer. For a specific crime, it is a good idea to hire a lawyer that specializes in that area. The best place to start is with personal recommendations. If someone has had a good experience with a lawyer themselves, they will be only too happy to put you in touch with them. You need to contact the state bar and check if the lawyer is in good standing, or if they have any complaints lodged against them. The state bar can also give you an idea of the hourly rate that a lawyer will charge. Also, check with local legal assistance groups.

Important

  • Choose a lawyer that specializes in the type of crime that you are charged with.
  • Try to find a lawyer via recommendations from friends or family or other people who may have used the lawyer in the past.
  • You can get lawyer recommendations from the Bar Association in your state.
  • Also check your local Legal Aid Society for recommendations or for the availability of attorneys that do pro bono work.

How To Hire a Lawyer

If you are hiring a new lawyer, arrange a meeting with them. Most lawyers will initially meet up with you free of charge. When arranging the meeting, you will also get a good idea of how busy they are: if they can meet you immediately, this may mean that they have no other clients (which could be a red flag as to how effective they are). On the other hand, if they can’t meet you for a while, this may be an indication that they are overloaded with work, and may not be able to devote enough time to your case. When you meet the lawyer, ask about past cases that they have worked on, and the outcome, and be sure to get referrals. Make sure you get a written breakdown of all hourly rates and other fees.

  • Here are some examples of the questions you should ask any potential lawyer:
  • Have you previously handled a case like mine? If so, what was the outcome?
  • How many years experience do you have?
  • What do you charge?
  • Do you require any money up-front?
  • What alternatives do I have in my case?
  • What are the best and worst-case scenarios in my case?

How Much Does a Lawyer Cost?

Unfortunately, lawyers tend to be very expensive; this is why you need to get detailed information about all fees. These can include hourly rates, flat fees or retainers. The most common of these are hourly rate charges. Depending on where you live, the severity of the crime or complexity of the case, and experience of the lawyer, fees can range from $50 per hour to $400 per hour. Don’t forget other expenses such as filing fees and court costs.

Public Defender

If the prior costs seem intimidating to you, you are not alone in that thought. Many people simply can’t afford to hire a lawyer, but don’t worry. Depending on your finances and the crimes you have been charged with, you may be entitled to free representation in the form of a public defender. Public defenders have the same qualifications as private lawyers, and they are required to represent you as vigorously as a private lawyer would. Most public defenders have many years of experience.  While you will not be able to use a public defender for minor offenses like traffic tickets, infractions, and misdemeanors, you will be able to use a public defender for more serious crimes, if you qualify.

Pro Bono

Also, there are many organizations and programs out there that offer free representation in the form of pro bono lawyers. Most law firms offer pro bono lawyers, and in fact some state bar associations have a requirement that a lawyer complete a minimum amount of pro bono hours per year. Many lawyers don’t actually advertise pro bono services, so it is up to you to locate one. As with a public defender, you have to be able to prove your income level to qualify for their services.

Important

  • Some attorneys may represent you for free – this is called ‘pro bono’.

Do Not Represent Yourself in Court!

One thing is for sure – do not be tempted to represent yourself, as it will not end well. If you choose to represent yourself, or be a ‘pro se litigant’, you are held to the same standards as a professional lawyer. If you don’t follow the rules and regulations of the court, you will be subject to litigation sanctions. Often, you will get so tied up in procedural rules, that you won’t be able to concentrate on your actual case.  Only an experienced lawyer will have the depth of knowledge required to put on a great defense.

Important

  • Do not represent your self!  Make sure you have an attorney representing you!

In conclusion, there are a lot of things to take into account when choosing a lawyer to represent you. Do your homework, and don’t just go with the first one that you meet. You need to be able to form a positive working relationship with this person in order to get the best outcome for yourself.

Resource Links:

Directory of National Legal Aid Societies

Georgia State Bar Guide to Choosing a Lawyer

Pro Bono Wikipedia Entry

American Bar Association Pro Bono Information

Pro Se Wikipedia Entry

United States District Court Guide to Pro Se

This page was last updated on October 12, 2017 @ 7:46 AM EST.

Comments

  1. norma jay b says:

    back in 2007 i was falsey held in leake county jail by the lies of a visiting guy of a local church of god in walnut,missippi by criminal investigator mr.micheal harper;and his crude and held ilegally 18 hours;on oct 18,2007;for what reason;he said it was raining;if he is still around he best find a janitors job;or less;cause i havent given up hope of finding him where ever he is and turning him into the fbi and a few others who dont see eye to eye of what he did to us?my son had ashtma and had an attack and they refused to take him to a doctor and he also denied us a lawyer and denied me having one;so you tell me when did it become against the law to ask a church for help and then get arrested for it;call me at this phone number if he still lives or works for leake county jail house where it was so filthy and how hed hold black folks for no reason’yes i know the man who said i was mentally unstable sure do;when i asked the jailer dawn why he had me detained he said no reason;they refused my ill son a blanket to stay warm in the cell he was in;let a lifer have ilegal sex with a pentecostal girl with blonde hair in the bathroom;and free open cell for him to do as he pleased;tried to break my hands as they ilegally finger printed me;i would say there is some thing wrong with that place;call me i am the one who wrote a blog on it go look on experiemental project;for norma jay b its real and still is;i am at ;;if you know a good civil trail lawyer give me a call;njayb

  2. Martha n tX says:

    Okay I am tired I have called and called most were nice but the judges office where the lady seemed to be mad at me for asking questions. I would just like to understand what I can do. Where to do it. I have called the sheriff office, district clerk office, public defender and several others. This is the 3rd time this week. I know what he did was wrong. I know he has to pay for it. But do they have to be RUDE! when I don’t understand some of the procedures. THEIR NEEDS TO BE A NUMBER TO CALL TO ANSWER QUESTIONS AND HOW TO DO WHAT YOU NEED TO DO.

  3. James D says:

    Back in February of 2000 I was locked up for being a convicted felon with a firearm I could not afford a paid attorney so I had to get a public defender ;Now let me tell you the police had NO warrant and came onto my property and I was in a shed that was made into my “mancave” they forced open the door and came in and put me in handcuffs and started going through everything needless to say they found a legal .38 revolver but I couldn’t have it because I was convicted of a felony but once again the police came into my backyard by opening a gate and forced open my mancave door wit NO warrant so I got a female public defender and from the beginning I told her about them NOT having a warrant she totally kept straying away from that coming at me with deals I was in the detention center 10 months before we finally agreed on something ;now at this point I was just plain tired of worrying everyday and wanted to get it over she told me that if I pled guilty to possession of a registered firearm by a convicted felon she would get me no more than 3 years all suspended but 18 months now I had been working the whole time so I would only have to do another 2 months maybe 3 so I figured what the hell I went into court and did exactly what she said the public defender hardly spoke in my behalf now came time for the judge to sentence me she said I am giving you 4 years and I waited for her to suspend something and she didn’t so I spoke up and said your honor are you suspending any time and she told me no so I told her what my attorney had said and the judge said she did not know nothing about it and therefore it was not a binding agreement so I did my 4 years I cant remember the public defenders name but I am trying to find it and as soon as I do I will post it and on top of everything I told her in the courtroom to put in for a modification and I wrote her 2 times within 30 days after being sentenced and I never got a letter from her or a modification so people BEWARE know your rights get familiar with the laws because if you are not you can get screwed and if anyone knows if I can take any action now please let me know Thank you

  4. bernie d says:

    QUESTION: I was in a accident in 2001 guy driving left for help. (cell phones wasn’t popular) and I was left in car. I finally was able to crawl out of the driver side of car and started walking down the highway. (was out in the middle of no where) Anyways a car finally stop by and was able to get to a phone to get help. After ambulance and police showed up, the officer said I was driving, and charge me with DWI, Minor in possession, and unlawful weapon. Wasnt arrested that night, couple days later insurance company calls and tell me that they spoke to the driver and to the police and I was fine, So I call hill county and said I would stil be charge for a minor in possession and thats it. Well august 31,2014 I get pulled over (not the first time after this incident) I’m told I have a warrant for unlawful weapon. Why did it just pop up now not prior to previoud encounter of law enforcement, or when renewing and TDPS. Anyone can recommend a lawywer in hill county, and any information, statue of limitation in effect? thanks

  5. Anonymous says:

    Sumner county: BEWARE OF PUBLIC DEFENDER ELIZABETH (Liz) and I cannot post her last name as she will not do anything for you. If you are appointed her as your public defender ask for someone else or be prepared for an ill prepared attorney who will not return phone calls, lies, will not come to see you, will not be prepared, and worst of all will have your case rescheduled time and time again for unknown reasons.

  6. Me says:

    Y’all bitches… sink or swim mofos. And Adam T. was mean to me

  7. Shay M says:

    QUESTION: My (Step) Daughter was arrested between 6 and 8 months ago, We (including my daughter) have not been able to contact her lawyer at all. He hasn’t even tried to go contact her at the facility, I know that she herself has tried to contact him numerous times, and so has my boyfriend and I. Every time that either one of us call his firm, either they straight up do not answer… or we leave a message with secretary/ assistant and yet we still have absolutely no information from him pertaining my daughter….. IS THERE ANYTHING I CAN DO ABOUT THIS? ARE THERE NO SOME SORT OF INMATE RIGHTS TOWARDS CRAPPY LAWYERS LIKE THIS? I AM TRYING TO FIND SOMETHING FOR HER OUT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

  8. Cassandra says:

    My fiancé has been in custody for two months he has court date today.? When he’s getting release from there. I’m pregnant and need know how long he going be there.? His name is Justin B.

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