Hiring a lawyer for the first time can be a very daunting experience. Knowing what to expect when looking for a lawyer may help prevent hardship in the long run. Hiring the right lawyer for you and your particular situation can make a big difference in the overall outcome of your case, and may make a big impact on your future. Make sure you are looking for the right qualities in a lawyer. Just like physicians or any other professionals, while there is a minimum standard they must meet to practice, some lawyers are better than others. Below are a few criteria that you should consider:
1. Ask friends and family. Word of mouth is the most common way that potential clients learn about lawyers they may want to hire. Unlike advertising, you are able to gain a deeper insight into what an experience is like dealing with a particular lawyer. When talking about lawyers with friends and family, make sure to ask as specific and detailed questions as possible.
2. Do some quick research. Today, with the Internet it is very simple and easy to check an attorney’s background and experience. Do a search for the attorney’s name and you might be surprised what you find.
3. Get a Feel for the Attorney’s Experience. Before hiring an attorney, you need to know what he or she has done in the past, and the areas in which his or her practice concentrates. It is not necessary that the attorney have overwhelming plethora of experience in your desired area; in fact, sometimes an attorney with a few years of experience can be more effective than a lawyer who has practiced in that particular area of law for a very long time. Keep in mind also that just because a lawyer has been in practice for a very long time, it doesn’t mean that he or she has extensive experience in your desired area of law. One type of law can be very different from another, and hiring a lawyer who matches what you are trying to accomplish is crucial for ensuring the greatest probability of a favorable outcome. One lawyer may be great in one particular area, but cannot effectively handle a case in another area.
4. Understand the Attorney’s Style.Attorneys are human beings first, and each has his or her own unique “bedside manner”. Some are very gentle and diplomatic, and others are very aggressive and direct. There’s no right answer here. It is simply a personal preference, but one that can make a difference between a lasting professional relationship or a potential pitfall for breakdowns in communication between the client and the lawyer. As well, each attorney has a unique style when it comes to handling his or her cases. One of the purposes for an initial consultation is for the client and lawyer to get to know each other to determine if the representation will be a “good fit”.
5. Cost. This may sound counter-intuitive, but cost, while still important, should be given the least weight when determining which attorney to hire. Going through the phone book and hiring the lawyer who gives you the lowest bid can sometimes lead to disastrous results. Just keep in mind that, often times, you get what you pay for. Know whether the attorney is taking your case by the hour, on a flat fee, or on a contingency. If hourly, then know what the attorney’s hourly rate is, and what policies the attorney uses in calculating your bill. Knowing up front what these office policies are can avoid conflicts later.
A common practice in the legal profession is to require what is called a “retainer” for legal work. In its most common usage, “retainer” often means a “special retainer”. A “special retainer” is a deposit, held in the attorney’s trust account, on the Client’s behalf, to secure payment to the attorney as the legal work is completed. Funds only transfer from the trust to the attorney upon a periodic itemized invoice (typically monthly) detailing the work performed during that period, and the remainder of the unearned funds remain the property of the client until they are properly transferred.
Hiring an attorney based on the least retainer amount required is a horrible idea. The retainer has little or nothing to do with the attorney’s actual price. The retainer amount has more to do with the amount of security that the attorney receives for payment during the course of the representation. Typically, more successful attorneys will require a higher retainer amount due to a higher opportunity cost–that is, the potential opportunities to work for other clients (with guaranteed funds) that the attorney must give up in order to pursue work on your behalf.
We at Bardine Law offer FREE CONSULTATIONS for the purpose of giving the client a chance to try us out. If you have a legal issue that you need help with, use our Contact Us on our page.
If you’re looking at prison time or a hefty fine, it’s a good idea to look into hiring the best criminal defense lawyer possible. You may have the ability to get a court-appointed lawyer if your income qualifies.
Simply put: the legal system is designed to make competently representing yourself in criminal trials almost impossible. Even if you have an abnormally high IQ, the system does not work in your favor. Hiring an attorney to represent you in your criminal trial is a necessity.
Because no criminal case is exactly like another, criminal defense lawyers are trained to pick out the parts of each case that make them unique.
In essence, they use their knowledge to find subtle evidence and reasons why you should win the case.
Also, the best criminal defense lawyer for you may be able to spot certain arguments and factors that could mitigate or even negate any potential crime. Even if you are guilty and the evidence is against you, they may be able to help you reduce fines and jail time.
Daily Responsibilities of a Criminal Lawyer
The day-to-day of being an attorney might not seem glamorous. Generally, it involves:
Contacting clients through email, phone calls, video calls, or in-person meetings
Reading case documents, evidence, and statutes (laws)
Taking notes on what would be helpful for the case
Forming a strategy for the case
While these activities may seem boring, they are the essential building blocks to making a strong case.
Criminal attorneys often spend months preparing for a case. The preparation can take much longer than actually being in the courtroom. This way, when the case goes to court, things can move as quickly as possible, and there are no surprises in the case.
What Specific Work Does a Criminal Lawyer Do That I Can’t Do?
After the research and strategy are done, a criminal defense lawyer has many jobs. While in court, they will call witnesses in your defense and cross-examine the prosecution’s witnesses.
They need to be dynamic and trustworthy, explain complex topics to a jury, and be prepared to discuss any aspect of the case. And this is just the beginning of the tasks ahead of them.
Specialties and Duties: Plea Bargains
Your criminal defense attorney may work with you and the prosecutor to negotiate a “plea bargain.”
A plea bargain can reduce your potential sentence or eliminate some of the charges brought against you. However, prosecutors are often unwilling to negotiate with defendants that represent themselves.
If you’re found guilty, your criminal defense attorney may be able to change your sentence. Often, they are changed in a way that would prevent you from winding back in the criminal justice system.
For instance, instead of going to prison for ten months for a drug possession conviction, your criminal defense attorney may suggest a prison sentence of six months and then four months in a drug treatment facility. This approach aims to help you with the drug problem that landed you in trouble in the first place.
Specialties and Duties: Case Outcomes
As hard as it might be to hear, an attorney has the experience and training to provide you with a reality check.
Defense lawyers know what’s going on much better than you will during your criminal trial. They also can predict how a case is going and what the judge or jury’s outcome may be.
Your defense attorney has the advantage of:
Remaining objective throughout a proceeding
Offering realistic insights into how the trial is actually going
These assessments and reality checks are often essential when a criminal defendant is trying to decide whether or not to accept a prosecutor’s plea bargain.
Specialties and Duties: Rules and Regulations
You can read books on criminal defense, but it takes years of study to grasp this area of law. Your attorney will point out important legal rules and regulations that you most likely wouldn’t find on your own.
Many rules about criminal prosecutions are buried within regulations and laws, and even prior court decisions.
For example, if you were to represent yourself, you may never know if the search that the police conducted of your apartment was lawful or not. To know this, you must understand the many nuances and intricacies surrounding the 4th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
Specialties and Duties: State-Specific People and Systems
Most people will find it hard to navigate their case through the state legal system where the case is being heard.
There are written rules, such as the local rules of court, that must be obeyed and followed. There are also often many “unwritten rules” that go along with each jurisdiction.
For example, let’s say only certain prosecutors can make and approve plea bargains. Your criminal defense lawyer may save you time (and maybe even jail time) by talking to the right person the first time.
Specialties and Duties: Consequences of Pleading Guilty
Your attorney can easily explain some of the “hidden costs” that come along with pleading guilty. Many people that represent themselves never think about the consequences of pleading guilty if it could lead to a shorter sentence.
For example, if you plead guilty, you may find it very hard to find a job once you’ve completed your punishment. An attorney will make sure you understand all your options before you plead.
Specialties and Duties: Handling Witnesses
Your attorney is trained in working with witnesses. They will be able to more easily gather evidence and statements from witnesses that are going to be called by the prosecution. Handling this without experience can be challenging for someone representing themselves.
Many witnesses, understandably so, refuse to give statements or information to people that were allegedly involved in a crime for fear of their own safety. However, these witnesses are often much more willing to talk to an attorney about their upcoming testimony.
Specialties and Duties: Handling Investigators and Experts
Part of the case will require finding and hiring investigators and expert witnesses.
Investigators can investigate not only the alleged crime but also the prosecution’s witnesses. If these investigators can find evidence that would make a witness’s testimony less believable, this could help your case tremendously.
Similarly, expert witnesses may be able to present evidence that would tend to show your innocence. They can also rebut evidence that the prosecution presents, making the prosecution’s case less credible.
Reading Books Can’t Replace Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Some criminal defendants seek to represent themselves by researching and reading books. However, reading books that spell out crimes, punishments, and defenses probably won’t lead you to victory in your case.
As any seasoned lawyer will tell you, there’s quite a vast difference between reading about the law and actually practicing the law in court.
Nothing Replaces Courtroom Experience
Understanding the ebbs and flows of a criminal trial can make the difference between winning and losing your case.
“Prosecutorial discretion” is a prime example of these ebbs and flows. Even the simple decision of what to charge a criminal defendant with can be complex. This can make all the difference in how a case is handled.
For example, what may appear to be a simple crime on paper could realistically be cast to be a multiple count indictment or a simple misdemeanor. Criminal defense lawyers are skilled at negotiating with prosecutors to figure out what counts to charge.
What Does Someone Need to Do to Become a Criminal Lawyer?
A degree in criminal law requires:
A four-year degree from an accredited university
Three years of school from an accredited law school
A Juris Doctor degree
Passing the bar exam in the state they wish to practice in
A license to practice from the state
Law students can appear in court while in school if a licensed attorney supervises them.
Many law students will also intern at a law firm before they are hired at a firm. Once hired, attorneys will likely shadow more experienced attorneys to learn the ropes before taking major cases.
Experienced attorneys will have years under their belt in and out of court. Still, newer attorneys are often cheaper to hire. Consider which level of experience better suits your needs.
What Questions Should You Ask a Criminal Lawyer?
Most criminal law attorneys don’t handle every type of criminal case. There is a large difference between defending a DUI and defending a client charged with murder. It is crucial to hire an attorney who has experience in the charges you are facing.
You should also communicate well with the attorney and feel comfortable being honest with them, and the approach they will take in court. Not every attorney is a fit for every client.
You should ask a prospective attorney these types of questions:
How long have you practiced law?
Have you handled a case like this?
What percentage of your time is spent on this specific type of case?
Do you focus on a certain area of criminal law?
What information do you need/should I prepare for our first meeting?
How do you handle fees? (Hourly, on retainer, per case, payment plans, credit cards, etc.)
Get Professional Help From a Criminal Defense Attorney
As you can see, a good criminal defense lawyer can make your job easier. They can also improve your chances of winning your case or obtaining a more favorable plea bargain.
Even if you qualify for a court-appointed attorney, there’s nothing keeping you from speaking with an experienced attorney to obtain a second opinion on your case.
If you’re really set on representing yourself in court, you should, at the very least, retain the best criminal defense lawyer possible to act as a coach during your trial.
You can find an experienced criminal defense attorney near you and start by reading reviews and testimonials or having a free phone consultation to ask questions about your case.
When you or someone you love is facing criminal charges, it is imperative that you have an experienced criminal defense attorney fighting for you. The most important decision you will make is which criminal defense law firm to hire to help you. These 10 tips can help you make the most informed decision possible:
1. Look For A Law Firm With Experience
How many years of experience does the law firm have successfully helping people facing criminal charges? How much experience does the criminal defense firm have defending clients facing the specific criminal charges you are facing?
It is very important that the law firm you hire is familiar with the type of criminal charges you are facing. If you are considering hiring an attorney but you are not sure how much experience that attorney has, it is appropriate to ask the lawyer how many years of experience the firm has in handling these types of cases.
2. Read Reviews And Testimonials From Former Clients
While experience is nice, it is important to hear from previous clients as to how the law firm handled their cases. You should review the criminal law firm’s website to find testimonials and case results. Ask the attorney where to go to find this information. In addition, check review sites such as Yelp and Google Plus to see what past clients are saying about the firm.
3. Check Attorney Ratings On Avvo.Com And MartindaleHubbell.Com
There are two recognized rating systems for lawyers that you should review before deciding which law firm to hire for your legal matter. They are Avvo.com and MartindaleHubbell.com.
An attorney’s Avvo rating is calculated using a mathematical model that considers the information shown in a lawyer’s profile, including the number of years the attorney has been practicing criminal defense, disciplinary history, professional achievements and industry recognition. Each lawyer is ranked from 1.0 to 10.0 (with 10.0 being a superb rating). Very few lawyers achieve a perfect 10.0 rating.
Martindale Hubbell is a trusted source that has been rating lawyers and law firms for many years. There are three possible ratings a law firm can receive from Martindale Hubbell. They are an “AV” rating, a “BV” rating and a “Rated” designation. An AV rating is the highest a law firm can achieve. To attain this rating, a firm must achieve excellence in defense of their clients consistently over a period of 10 years. The firm must also receive outstanding reviews from other lawyers, judges and past clients.
4. Find A Firm With Experience In The Local Courts
Experience is key when hiring a criminal defense law firm. The law firm you hire should not only have years of experience practicing criminal defense, but the firm should also have substantial experience in the court where your case is pending.
Each court has unique procedures and staff, so it is important that your lawyer is familiar with the local court. If your attorney knows the court procedures and how the judges and prosecutors operate at the court where your case is pending, it can give you a major advantage in your case.
5. Know If You’re Hiring An Attorney Or A Team Of Attorneys
When searching for a law firm, you will want to find one that employs multiple experienced criminal defense attorneys. Criminal defense matters can be very complicated. You will be much better off if you retain a law firm with multiple lawyers who have been practicing criminal defense for years so that they can work together to plan your defense. A defense lawyer who works alone on your case or only with one partner will not be able to strategize the same way and may not have time to prioritize your case.
Additionally, if you hire a lawyer who is working alone, that lawyer will likely be handling many cases in different courts. This means that if your case is on calendar in one court, the lawyer may have another case to handle in another court on the same day. This will create a conflict for your attorney. He or she may have to send another lawyer to the court on your case who is unfamiliar with you and the facts of your case. If you hire a criminal defense law firm rather than a single attorney, you will know that one of the many criminal lawyers in that firm will be on top of your case at all times. The attorneys at your law firm will be able to work as team and always be familiar with your case.
6. A First Impression Is A Sign Of Things To Come
Consider how easy it is to get a hold of a lawyer when you call the office for the first time. Were you able to receive answers to your questions over the phone or were you asked to leave a message? Did the lawyer call you back promptly or did you have to wait a lengthy period of time before you heard from the lawyer?
You will want your attorney to be responsive and respectful to your needs. A good law firm will understand what you are going through and will be there when you call for help. Your initial call to the law firm will be a good indication of the communication you will have with your lawyer during your case.
7. Communication Is Key
Going through the criminal process is going to be stressful. That is why you should hire a law firm that makes it easy for you to communicate with them and ask any questions you have. What hours can you reach the law firm? Does the firm have a lawyer on call in case of an emergency?
When you speak to an attorney on the phone, he or she should give you his or her email address and cellphone number. Your law firm should provide you with the email addresses of the lawyers and legal assistants who will be working on your case.
8. Be Prepared To Give Your Version Of The Events
Telling your side of the story is critical to any evaluation of your case. That is why an experienced criminal defense law firm will ask you to do your homework.
You need to explain in detail what happened that lead to your arrest. You will need to also tell the law firm about your “social background” as well as provide a list of character witnesses who can attest to your good character. Finally, you will be asked to provide a list of potential witnesses that could assist your defense. You should not hire a law firm that does not ask you to prepare your homework.
9. Don’t Expect A Guarantee
If you are accused of a crime or calling on behalf of a loved one who is facing criminal charges, you are likely very frightened. Unfortunately, some law firms will attempt to take advantage of your vulnerable state by guaranteeing you a certain result when talking to you.
Not only is an attorney lying to you by guaranteeing you a certain outcome in your case, making such promises is also against California State Bar rules. More importantly, no law firm can guarantee you any result because the actual outcome of your case will depend upon many factors that will unfold as your case progresses through the system. If an attorney guarantees you a result, you should question that attorney’s ethics and look to hire another law firm.
10. Compare Prices And Get It In Writing
It is crucial that you understand how fees work within the law firm that you hire. If a law firm is quoting you a very low fee, you will want to investigate the experience of that law firm. On the other hand, just because a law firm is the most expensive does not mean that they are the most qualified to take on your case.
In addition, some lawyers will not explain how fees work and you will wind up paying more than you initially agreed to. Make sure the firm provides a signed, written contract before hiring the law firm. The retainer agreement should clearly spell out the terms of the contractual relationship. Feel free to discuss a fee schedule and payment plans with your attorney before entering into a professional relationship.
Contact The Criminal Defense Attorneys At Wallin & Klarich Today
Hiring the right criminal defense attorney is one of the most important decisions you will make in your life. Your freedom is on the line, so you need to know that you are in capable hands. At Wallin & Klarich, our skilled attorneys have been successfully defending our clients facing criminal charges for over 40 years. We’ve helped thousands of clients in their time of legal need, and we can help you now.
With offices in Los Angeles, Sherman Oaks, Torrance, Orange County, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Ventura, West Covina and Victorville, there is an experienced Wallin & Klarich attorney available to help you no matter where you work or live.
The decision to hire an criminal defense lawyer is a very important one and may well be the most important decision you make your entire life. The effect of hiring a bad attorney can last a lifetime. Not only can a bad attorney cause you to plead guilty to an offense you did not commit, a bad attorney can also cause you to plead guilty to an offense the State can NOT prove beyond a reasonable doubt. It is up to your attorney or lawyer to investigate your case, research the law, and force the State to meet this burden of proof.
A attorney you hire also has a duty and responsibility to educate you and inform you of your rights accurately. I cannot tell you the number of times I’ve met with someone who had been misinformed about the law by their prior attorney. Here are some examples:
In one instance, a client told me he pled guilty to theft because he was with a friend who stole something. However, “mere presence” is not enough to commit a crime. You have to do something to aid, solicit, encourage, direct or attempt to aid someone to committing the crime in order to be guilty. This misinformation caused them to plead guilty to an offense they didn’t commit.
Another case, I had a client come in that had picked up another case after completing a deferred adjudication on a prior case. The attorney never told the client that they were eligible to seal their case after they completed the probation. They also didn’t know that if you pick up another case, your chances of sealing the first case are extremely unlikely. If they had known, they would have sealed it and possibly kept employers, credit companies, and others from seeing the prior case.
A client met with me to seal his record after receiving a deferred adjudication 30 plus years before. When we pulled him up, his records showed he did a straight probation and not a deferred adjudication. This was a conviction on his record and had been keeping him from getting a good job for the past 30 years. He never knew why he couldn’t get any offers after doing so well in interviews. When we contacted his prior attorney about it, he had passed away.
In another case, a client had completed a deferred adjudication for a family violence case and picked up a new unlawful carrying of a weapon case. He was never advised by his prior attorney, that by the Court making a finding of family violence, he would never be able to own a firearm again. Because he didn’t know that fact, he was unknowingly carrying a firearm illegally
A client met with me and upon reviewing his past criminal history we saw a possession of marijuana case in which he pled guilty and received a time served conviction on. He basically paid a fine and the case was over. His attorney never told him that in pleading guilty on a drug charge, he would lose his financial aid for college. He was forced to drop out of college the following semester.
A client met with our office in regards to a felony theft charge. It was a felony because she had two prior theft convictions. I asked her if she had a problem with stealing and uncontrollable urges to take things. She replied affirmatively and told me no one had ever asked her that. We got her some help to cope with her kleptomania and treat the impulsive behavior disorder and ended up resolving her case favorably.
There are so many things that an attorney is responsible for. It’s not just walking someone to Court and pleading them guilty. A criminal defense attorney is supposed to advocate or fight for their clients, advise their clients about their case and the repercussions of different results on their lives, and also to counsel clients and look out for their best interests. A criminal defense lawyer should genuinely care about each and every one of his clients.
What lawyers should I avoid?
First, I would absolutely avoid attorneys who charge you for each court appearance. This type of arrangement may seem to be a better bargain, but most cases get reset at least 4-6 times on average. That is without a trial.
What may end up happening is the lawyer will not do any work on your case during these resets. The lawyer will use this to pressure you into pleading your case out because you just cannot afford to keep paying him to come to court.
Resetting of a case is supposed to be used to gather evidence in defense of your case, but that usually doesn’t happen in these arrangements. Typically in these arrangements, the attorney will reset the case without doing any work on the case. They do that until you are tired of coming to Court or you get tired of paying. Then they give you an ultimatum and force you to plead guilty. Our office charges a flat fee and gathers evidence that will help on every case. Many times, the evidence we gather can get the case dismissed, helps tremendously in plea negotiations, or prepares your case to have a jury trial. There may be many pieces of evidence that could destroy the state’s case and thus cause your case to be dismissed. You should always be able to ask the attorney, “why your case is being reset”. If he cannot give you an answer, you have a problem.
Also, avoid attorneys that plea out cases early on without doing the necessary research. You can ask any attorney to pull up their current cases, by entering their bar number, on the Harris County District Clerk’s website. This will allow you to see the outcomes of each of the last 300-400 cases they have handled. The Harris County District Clerk is entity that handles all of the filings and court documents of the court system and they manage a database of all of the cases handled in Harris County. There should be a mixture of mostly dismissals, jury trials – not guilty verdicts, and deferred adjudications. If you see that the attorney has received convictions and pleaded to jail time on most of their cases, you can safely assume that they either do not really care about their clients or do not know how to effectively represent their clients and will likely get you the similar results.
I would also avoid attorneys that handle all types of cases and not just criminal defense. Just like a doctor, it takes a lot of time and continuing education to stay up to date in a given field of law. Doctors that handle cardiology typically do not handle dermatology and/or digestive health. Your criminal record and good name is very important to you. You want someone who understands the nature of the criminal court system, the people involved, and the current law in the field. Although not impossible, it is very tough to handle many different fields of law and know how to effectively handle the case. Ask the attorney, what other types of cases do you handle?
Another attorney you should avoid are attorneys that come to Court without a briefcase or file for you. I see attorneys come to Court with a list of names and Courts. Your attorney is responsible for defending you and keeping you from going to jail or having a permanent scar on your record. He should have something in a file including: resets, contact information, evidence, subpoenas, motions, notes, charging instruments, and offense reports with him. If he doesn’t have these things or written notes from the first time you told him your version of the facts, he is not defending you, just merely walking next to you as you get processed through the system.
Be cautious of an attorney without any experience or only a few years of experience. They may have good intentions, but without the knowledge of how to handle criminal cases, they typically fall flat with results.
Another tool to use is to look at reviews of the attorney online. Google their name and see what other past clients have written about them. Take these reviews with a grain of salt, because there are always the truth or justified, but you can learn a lot about a lawyer through his reviews. You can also look to review sites such as Avvo.com and see an attorney’s reviews, qualifications, and credentials. Also the Texas Bar has a way to search for attorneys and see if they have ever been disciplined. I would avoid any attorney who has been punished by the State Bar. The Better Business Bureau has reviews as well.
Why don’t I just hire the cheapest lawyer I can find?
We understand that money doesn’t grow on trees and many people just want to save as much money as possible. When you make a decision to hire an attorney, it is very important not to make that decision solely based on price.
It should definitely be a factor, but not the only factor. One problem I see often, is that when an attorney charges next to nothing, they take on more cases to make up for the low price. Typically, they will handle 10 or more cases in one day, which does a few things. It causes them to try to resolve your case as quickly as possible, which means they don’t fully investigate or try to fight your case.
It also causes the clients to sit all morning and wait for their attorney to arrive at court. One attorney can’t be at all 22 District Courts and 15 Count Courts in Houston at the same time. So they slowly make it through their docket causing you to sit there for hours each time you go to Court.
I often hear these stories whether its from a client who hires me after hiring a bad lawyer or being stopped by people in Court waiting for their attorneys. Oftentimes, I get calls from potential clients years after their cases are resolved and they call me to try and seal their records and I have to tell them that because of the disposition of the case, it will be on their record forever.
They explain that they were young and didn’t have any money or they hired an attorney and they forced them to plead guilty. What people don’t understand is that what happens after you are charged with a crime can and will affect you for the rest of your life.
Many offenses can keep you from ever being able to find a good job, sign a lease for an apartment, or get credit to purchase a house or car. Hiring an attorney to defend you against a crime is one of the biggest decisions you will make in your entire life.
The difference between hiring a bad and good attorney could possibly be only a couple hundred or a couple thousand dollars right now. But one thing people typically do not account for is the difference between being stuck at a bad job because of your record versus a good job could easily be $20,000-50,000 a year. Which, over a lifetime, could be much much more. It is definitely not worth skipping out on a few dollars now. I once heard a very good piece of advice. There are three things you don’t want to go cheap on, an accountant, a doctor, and your lawyer. These people protect the most important things in life, your money, your health, and your freedom. Our office understands that not everyone has a lot of money saved up. In many circumstances we can typically work out a payment plan with you. Our fees are affordable and I will do everything I can to help you.
One thing to note is that a more expensive attorney doesn’t always mean they will be better either. Do your research. Meet with attorneys, ask them questions, and talk to them about how they are going to represent you. If you don’t feel comfortable or get a bad feeling, follow your gut. This is a big decision and you have to have someone in your corner that you feel will fight for you and cares about you.
Is there anyone who is good and affordable?
Not everyone charged with a crime can afford the criminal defense attorney they deserve. At the Law Office of Henry K. Nguyen, P.C., we know the economy is tough right now and people in Houston are suffering from it. Many people do not have a lot of money saved up or are hit with the exorbitant amount of fees and expenses related to being charged with a criminal case, such as posting bonds or getting devices installed like the SCRAM or Interlock devices. Everyone facing criminal charges wants a good attorney, the question is whether or not they can find an affordable criminal defense lawyer.
Our criminal defense firm offers affordable rates and we will try and do everything we can to work with you. Our fees are reasonable and we offer customizable payment plans to fit most budgets. Typically on payment plans, we require half down and payments every two weeks or every month. We can usually give you a couple of months to take care of the balance.
We can also accept collateral as a down payment on occasion. Our office is dedicated to providing affordable criminal defense for our clients. Not just an affordable criminal defense lawyer, but one that knows how to handle these cases. A criminal defense attorney that cares about you and one that will fight for you with the results to back it up. Get the criminal defense attorney you deserve, contact our office today for a FREE consultation.
If you’ve been arrested or charged with a crime, you’ll probably need the immediate assistance of a criminal defense lawyer, particularly if your liberty is at stake. A good criminal defense lawyer can explain your rights in all stages of the criminal process and help make the difference between a reduced plea bargain or dismissal and a jail sentence.
Below is important information you need to know about hiring a criminal defense lawyer.
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Being charged with a crime — whether major or minor — is a serious matter. A person facing criminal charges risks severe penalties and consequences, such as jail time, having a criminal record, and loss of relationships and future job prospects, among other things. While some legal matters can be handled alone, a criminal arrest of any nature warrants the legal advice of a qualified criminal defense attorney who can protect your rights and secure the best possible outcome for your case.
If you’re facing criminal prosecution, a criminal defense attorney can help you understand:
What to Look for When Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Criminal defense attorneys handle a variety of criminal cases, including felonies, misdemeanors, drug charges, white-collar crimes, and many other state and federal crimes. When looking for a criminal defense lawyer, you’ll want to find the best one for your case. As such, you should concentrate on the lawyer’s expertise, skill level, and knowledge.
A good criminal defense lawyer may help:
Reduce your criminal charge to a lesser offense (for example, reduce a felony to a misdemeanor);
Lessen the severity of the punishment for the crime;
Reduce or eliminate jail time (via probation, for example); and/or
Also, because of the nature of what’s at stake, it’s important that the attorney you hire has the necessary skill level needed to defend the case, and is the one who actually conducts most of the work. For instance, you may need someone familiar with crime scene investigations, witness/victim/police interviewing, and/or extensive knowledge of polygraphs, sketches, photographs, and video.
There are numerous ways to find and hire a criminal defense lawyer. Referrals from friends and family or online research may be a good start. However, in many instances, a person facing criminal charges may not wish to publicize the news of his or her arrest to extended family members and friends or may not have unlimited time to research online.
Questions to Ask a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Before selecting a criminal defense lawyer, you should feel comfortable enough to speak with him or her concerning all aspects of your criminal charge. Below are some of the questions you should ask:
Do you have any experience handling cases similar to mine?
How much of my criminal case will you actually handle?
How many jury trials have you litigated?
How often do you work out plea agreements or ask for a lesser charge?
What are your attorney’s fees, and how are they calculated? Do you offer a payment plan?
Would you be willing to provide references from clients you’ve helped?
Criminal Defense Lawyer Fees
The cost of hiring a criminal defense lawyer will vary depending on a number of factors, including the attorney’s experience, reputation, track record, and geographical location. Most criminal defense attorneys bill their time either hourly or by a flat fee arrangement. Depending on the fee arrangement, some attorneys may allow you to get on a payment plan to handle ongoing charges. Others may require an upfront retainer fee before working on the case.
In all cases, it’s wise to consult with a variety of criminal defense lawyers in your area to find one you feel comfortable with in representing you and get a sense of the costs involved.
If you’re facing criminal charges that could result in a prison sentence, loss of professional licenses, or other tough penalties, you’ll probably want legal counsel on your side. Get started today and reach out to a criminal defense attorney near you to discuss your situation and receive personalized legal advice.
Law schools offer a range of programs to fit your career ambitions and schedule. Most law schools share a common first-year approach to educating lawyers, with much more variation in the second and third years, such as opportunities for specialized programs, judicial clerkships, legal externships, participation in clinical programs and moot court, and involvement with the public interest and governmental agencies. Meet real students who share their stories of activism, public service, and international travel as part of their law school education. Law school can be an intense, competitive environment–but the rewards are considerable.
The First Year
Your journey officially begins. The work will be challenging, and professors expect you to arrive at every class thoroughly prepared. Most professors give little feedback until the final examination for the course, and most course grades are determined primarily from end-of-semester or end-of-year exams.
The Case Method Approach
The case method is unfamiliar for many first-year law students. It involves the detailed examination of a number of related judicial opinions that describe an area of law. You may be asked questions designed to explore the facts presented, to determine the legal principles applied in reaching a decision, or to analyze the method of reasoning used. In this way, professors encourage you to relate the case to others and to distinguish it from those with similar, but inapplicable, precedents.
By focusing on the underlying principles that shape the law’s approach to different situations, you will learn to distinguish among subtly different legal results and to identify the critical factors that determine a particular outcome.
The Ability to Think
There is an adage that the primary purpose of law school is to teach you to think like a lawyer. This is reinforced through the case method approach. Although the memorization of specifics may be useful to you, the ability to be analytical and literate is considerably more important than the power of total recall. Because laws continually change and evolve, specific rules may quickly lose their relevance, but the ability to think critically will be of the highest value. This is why critical thinking ability is assessed on the LSAT as a predictor of the likelihood of success, and why preparing for the LSAT helps students once they’re in law school.
As a first-year law student, you will follow a designated course of study that may cover many of the following subjects:
Civil procedure—the process of adjudication in the United States such as jurisdiction and standing to sue, motions and pleadings, pretrial procedure, the structure of a lawsuit, and appellate review of trial results.
Constitutional law—the legislative powers of the federal and state governments, and questions of civil liberties and constitutional history, including detailed study of the Bill of Rights and constitutional freedoms.
Contracts—the nature of enforceable promises and rules for determining appropriate remedies in case of nonperformance.
Criminal law and criminal procedure—bases of criminal responsibility, the rules and policies for enforcing sanctions against individuals accused of committing offenses against the public order and well-being, and the rights guaranteed to those charged with criminal violations.
Legal method—students’ introduction to the organization of the American legal system and its processes.
Legal writing—learning legal research and writing are critical elements of most first-year law school experiences.
Property law—concepts, uses, and historical developments in the treatment of land, buildings, natural resources, and personal objects.
Torts—private wrongs, such as acts of negligence, assault, and defamation, that violate obligations of the law.
In addition to attending classes, you may be required to participate in a moot court exercise in which you must argue a hypothetical court case.
After the first year, you will likely have the opportunity to select from a broad range of courses. Most students will take foundation courses in administrative law, civil litigation, commercial law, corporations, evidence, family law, professional responsibility, taxation, and wills and trusts before completing their degree. Every law school supplements this basic curriculum with additional courses, such as international law, environmental law, conflict of laws, labor law, criminal procedure, and jurisprudence, and many law schools include clinical (experiential) opportunities as well.
Student organizations are a great supplement to classroom learning. Typically, these organizations are dedicated to advancing the interests of particular groups of law students, such as Black students, female students, Hispanic students, or LGBTQ students. Other groups promote a greater understanding of specific legal fields, such as environmental or international law, or provide opportunities for involvement in professional, social, and sports activities.
A unique feature of American law schools is that law students manage and edit most of the legal profession’s principal scholarly journals. Membership on the editorial staff of these journals is considered a mark of academic distinction. Selection is ordinarily based on outstanding academic performance and writing ability.
Whether you are a full-time student or a working student trying very hard to balance your time between work that pays the bill and your limited study time in pursuit of your dreams of becoming a lawyer someday, the question of whether or not your study techniques are efficient and effective always hold true.
Here are 7 Tips for Effective Study Techniques
1. Codal is King
Codal provisions contain the text of the law per se. Codal is what the law provides. By reading the codal provisions first, you are giving yourself an overview of the law, its general principles, as well as its exemptions to the general rules. Some successful bar takers and professors often mentioned that you can answer a Bar question by citing the codal provisions of the law as a legal basis. This works well for definition of terms, as well as enumeration. By being familiar with the codal provisions, you will have legal basis when answering in class recitation and of course in the bar exam.
Atty. Myra Baranda, Top 3 of the 2019 Bar Exams, affirmed the idea when she said that, “Codals are so important so these are to be prioritized.”
2. Listen to Codal Audiobooks
As the saying goes, “Law School is a jealous mistress.” Studying law requires a lot of time. You need to allocate one hour per every unit of subject. Which means, a three-unit subject requires a study time of 3 hours to say the least. But remember to study smart, instead of just studying hard.
One of the ways to maximize your time is to listen to audiobooks for law school subjects. Get your earphones and listen anytime, anywhere. Whether you are sweating out in your morning workout, or working on your desk job, you can listen to audiobooks and learn at the same time.
Visit Law School Buddy’s YouTube channel and choose among the available codal provision audiobooks free of charge. From Criminal Law, Civil Law, to Political Law, the playlists are being updated every week. Enhance your understanding of the law one audiobook at a time. Don’t forget to subscribe!
3. Choose Book that Suits You
Every law school book author has a unique writing style in explaining the law in their textbooks and commentaries. One easily defines and enumerates the elements of a certain topic while another one provides essential landmark cases to cite as examples. And then we have authors who love to give examples in order to better explain each concept. These are all helpful. And you might find a book that catches it all. Of course your professor might also prescribe a book to use.
However it is important to assess which is the most effective material for you. Scan the available books and stick to your preferred style. We have great authors and books, just pick one that suits you.
4. Have an overview of the book
Muhammad Yunus once said, “In a bird’s eye view you tend to survey everything and decide on a particular point, then you swoop down and pick it up. In a worm’s eye view, you don’t have that advantage of looking at everything.”
By looking at the table of contents or outline of your commentaries and textbooks, you are giving yourself a glimpse of what’s ahead, and also getting affirmation on the topics to be discussed in relation to what you have read in codal provisions.
Many students often jump right into reading their textbooks with no idea how extensive the topic coverage is or how long it takes to finish a chapter. Start by browsing the outline first and use it as your study guide so you can better manage your time to make sure all topics are covered.
5. Jurisprudence is Queen
The rule of precedents. Jurisprudence are judicial decisions applying or interpreting the laws or the Constitution that form part of the legal system of the Philippines. If Codal is King, then Jurisprudence is Queen.
The Supreme Court has laid out important decisions in landmark cases on how they rule over a case. The Supreme Court’s decisions are, more often than not, widely used as a legal basis in answering essay questions, law school class recitation, and ofcourse, the bar exam.
Jurisprudence are also beneficial to law school students to better understand the fundamentals of the law and help them figure out the actual rule of the law. The lawyer and judges can use jurisprudence as a guide to correctly interpret certain laws that require interpretation.
Law School Buddy is featuring jurisprudence from Supreme Court decided cases. Don’t miss this out! Join us on Facebook and Instagram, along with fellow law school students, and together we learn essential jurisprudence every single day.
6. Read Full Text of Cases
I know what you are thinking. How can one read the full text of cases when one has limited time to study, add to that a voluminous number of supreme court decided cases to digest?
If you have the luxury of time to read the full text of cases, you already know its benefits. Reading the full text will not only help you understand how the supreme court came about its final ruling but also the basis and decisions of the lower courts and why the supreme court affirms or reverses previous decisions are explained. The narration of facts are often lengthy, no one can argue about that, but the laying of legal basis in every decision of the court is so encompassing that it will surely help you understand how the law is applied. Not to mention, it will highly enrich your knowledge of Jurisprudence.
Who knows? Your next question in law school might be based in one of the cases you have read.
7. Practice Answering
Now that you have read and study your law school subjects, time to test the waters. One of the most effective ways is to practice answering essay questions, preferably those previously asked in the bar exams. This will gauge your depth of knowledge about certain topics. When you understand what you read, it should be easy for you to answer the questions. Otherwise, you might need to spend more time to fully understand the topic until such time that you can discuss it with ease, and be able to answer the questions with confidence.
By going through the past questions asked in the Philippine Bar Exams, you can have an idea of the important topics that are usually given more weight and attention in exams.
And that’s the 7 Study Tips for Law School. I hope you learned something today. Join us in this law school journey as we inspire and help each other toward a common goal.
One crucial difference is the one between civil litigation and criminal litigation. Luckily, with over 1.3 million lawyers in the U.S who run general or specialized practices, you can always find one who will help you navigate either.
Criminal cases involve the government prosecuting an individual for violating state or federal laws or allegedly committing a crime. The case is presented before the court by the prosecutor, a state’s attorney (District Attorney), or the United States Attorney for a federal crime.
The civil litigation process begins when a person or entity files a dispute against another person or entity, suing for compensation for damages caused. The judge or jury listening to the case will then apply the appropriate law to the facts presented in court by both parties. The plaintiff files a complaint in court seeking monetary compensation, an injunction, or an order as a result of an action by the defendant.
Types of civil cases include:
Personal Injury Tort Claims
One of the most common cases in civil litigation is personal injury claims. The plaintiff asks for compensation for damage caused as a result of an action by the defendant. The argument may be based on negligence, intentional wrongdoing, or strict liability. Some of the claims filed include auto and motorcycle accidents, medical malpractice, fraud, personal injury, animal attacks, and many more.
Breach of contract claims results from the failure of a person or entity to fulfill their contractual obligations; thus, the plaintiff files a case in a civil court. The plaintiff asks for compensation for the non-fulfillment of the contract signed. Some of the matters handled include violation of business agreements and non-delivery of paid purchase.
The aggrieved party may ask the court to issue orders to an individual or entity to halt an action or to take a specific action. Most cases involve plaintiffs seeking temporary restraining or reprieve orders against the defendant.
Class Action Suits
A civil litigation lawyer represents a whole group or class of people filing for compensation, against an organization, for the many injuries or damage caused to them. Class action suits are complex to litigate and may end in huge compensation payouts. An example is a group of consumers suing a company for a faulty product or equipment that caused injury to them.
Divorce and Family Law Disputes
Divorce, legal separation, and custody disputes fall under civil litigation. The court rules on breaking the union, sharing of the marital assets, child custody, and support. From the complex nature of the cases, it would be best to find civil litigation lawyers with a firm grasp of family law.
Property cases involve disagreements about property ownership and boundaries. The court may offer more than monetary compensation, issuing out restriction orders against the trespasser.
Civil litigation proceedings are usually complex, requiring the professional knowledge of experienced lawyers to present the cases. If you need a civil litigation lawyer in Rockwall, TX, you can contact the Law Firm of Patrick Short.
Amid police force controversies, many municipalities are strengthening their community policing efforts with increased resources and new strategies
Community policing initiatives are broadly defined as strategic efforts to encourage trust between police departments and civilians. Most community policing projects focus on interactions to create partnerships and problem-solving techniques to proactively address conditions surrounding crime and public safety.
In light of recent controversies concerning the use of police force, many municipalities are strengthening their community policing efforts with increased resources and new strategies.
LOCAL YOUTH TRAINERS
In Baltimore, a social justice organization is offering local police departments with specialized training on how to better interact with residents. These training programs will be led by teens who live in the communities directly impacted by police activity and monitoring.
The Inner Harbor Project not only teaches police how to communicate better with local residents but also provides urban teens with the necessary skills and information to lead these important classes. The social justice organization equips teenagers with research and professional skills to enable them to brainstorm solutions to community issues involving race, class, and culture. In Baltimore, there has been an ongoing conflict between young city residents and police.
Likewise, the group is also working to ease tension between teens and local businesses. The Inner Harbor Project released The Harbor Card program that offers discounts to young shoppers at a number of participating outlets. The goal is to foster a more relaxed environment between young patrons and the business community – which was most likely to contact police if teens appeared to be loitering.
The Chattanooga Police Department recently adopted a smartphone application that allows the department to communicate with city residents regarding crime in local neighborhoods. The Nextdoor app enables police officers to send residents:
The information can be shared with residents in a specific neighborhood most affected by the news. The app also functions as a private community forum where residents can post messages regarding local news such as upcoming garage sales or lost pets.
While police may post messages to residents, the department will be unable to see posts among neighbors. Residents, on the other hand, can see all messages, post to the forum or send a private message directly to the police. The app is free to use once a resident has verified they live in a neighborhood, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reported.
The overall goal of the app is to both increase communication between police and residents, as well as increase safety and awareness.
In Messina, New York, the local police department has unveiled a new community policing initiative that gets officers on the streets to interact with youth. The True Blue program encourages officers to spend at least a half hour of their shift out in public spending time with children at playgrounds and other community centers, Watertown Daily Times reported.
Whether the police are spending time with kids playing hockey or basketball in the park, fishing in a creek or reading at the library, they are participating in the program. The goal is to nurture strong, trusting relationships between youth and police officers. If the children feel comfortable with local police, they will be less afraid to report things they see or ask questions in the future, Watertown Daily Times reported.
Messina Police Chief LaBrake said the program is designed to get police officers out of their cars and on the streets where they can learn about community needs and concerns more directly. In addition, the initiative hopes to present a more positive image of police officers than what has been presented in media coverage of recent controversies.
Similar to Messina’s True Blue program, a Chicago police department has created a youth baseball league to build stronger relationships with city youths. In a neighborhood riddled with gang violence, most kids in Englewood are unable to play outside in the summer without fear of violence or arrests.
The Englewood Police/Youth Baseball League was strategically launched in one of the city’s most dangerous neighborhoods and aims to keep vulnerable kids off the streets and away from violence. Furthermore, the league shows youths that police officers can help keep the community safe and shouldn’t be seen as a threat.
Another way local police departments are making community policing a priority is by instating the necessary leadership to organize initiatives and be held accountable for performance. The Chicago Police Department recently named its first Deputy Chief of Community Policing to further bridge the gap between community groups and police departments.
The Deputy Chief of Community Policing will work with the patrol division and CAPS personnel to coordinate community policing efforts and projects across the city. These initiatives include moving hundreds of officers out of administrative roles and into foot and bike patrols in an effort to support interactions with residents.
It is one thing to launch a community policing project, but an entirely separate project to know if it is working or not. Lorie Fridell, associate professor of Criminology at the University of South Florida, argues that police departments should conduct community surveys at regular intervals to gauge how residents feel about the programs and police departments in general, Newsweek reported.
Another type of survey – a consumer survey – would poll individuals who had recent contact with the police. This survey would provide deeper insight into how one-on-one interactions have or have not changed since the program was launched.
Furthermore, cities should be evaluating their police data regularly to identify any major reductions, spikes or patterns in police-community activities. Departments can track criminal activity alongside resident reporting to see if greater trust has been built in the community.
Some departments, for example, have adopted ShotSpotter gunshot detection technology that can compare the number of detected gunshots with the number of 911 calls related to gunfire at the time. This data illustrates the state of relationships between residents and police by measuring people’s willingness to call law enforcement, Newsweek reported.
No matter the strategy, police departments should be documenting activities in neighborhoods where community policing projects are active, and comparing the results to other areas to identify successes, failures and best practices.
We believe that planning your estate well in advance should benefit you and your family. It does not matter what age you are, as something unexpected could happen, leaving your loved ones burdened with the responsibility of distributing your estate in the best way they can.
As estate lawyers, we can provide you with the advice you need to help divide up your assets if you die, or become incapacitated through no fault of your own.
Many people do not know how to draw up a Will and even though it is not complicated it needs to be created in a way that there are no ambiguities in relation to the distributing of your estate. Any doubts in beneficiaries’ minds could lead to unnecessary court battles that divide families who have had good family relationships before the death of a loved one.
A living trust comes under the Florida Trust Code and a Florida resident draws this up during their life to benefit themselves, their spouse, and other people following their death. Florida trusts are laid out in Chapter 736 of the Florida statutes.
There are several parts to this type of trust which are:
there is the individual who initiates the trust and plans what the living trust agreement contains. This is the trustmaker, settler or grantor.
the trustee is appointed to administer the assets and makes sure the contents of the trust are distributed in accordance with the wishes of the trustmaker.
the lifetime beneficiary, who is the trustmaker, settler or grantor has complete access to the income and principal contained in the living trust throughout their lifetime.
A living trust formed for estate planning purposes is entirely revocable both in full or just a part. The trust maker can alter anything in the trust while still alive and mentally able to do so. As soon as the trust maker dies, this living trust is irrevocable, so the beneficiaries of the trust and successor may not change any of the trust’s provisions.
Organizing a living trust is never an easy matter but one of our estates, trusts, and probate lawyers have vast experience dealing with these difficult real-life issues and can navigate you through the difficult decision-making required when you decide a living trust best suits your needs.
Estate planning and the probate court
When a person dies in Florida without a will, their estate is considered “intestate.’’ This typically means there are no clear instructions available for the distribution of property and assets. When this happens the Florida probate court will be involved following a petition from a surviving heir or any other individual(s) who may claim s/he has a right to the estate. The legal proceedings that follow will decide how the estate is to be divided.
If at all possible, the probate court must be avoided as it can be a costly and time-consuming process. When deceased property decisions end up in the probate court, it is the legal system alone that decides how property and assets should be fairly divided not the family left behind. These problems can easily be avoided as long as the proper documentation has been compiled regarding the distribution of your wealth. One of our probate lawyers can work on your behalf so the time and cost is minimized when it comes to the time you need to pass your assets on to your surviving family members.