When you need an attorney
You’ve been arrested, booked, and arraigned on a misdemeanor charge, or maybe it was a felony charge. You called a family member to bail you out and you have been given a court date to appear before the judge and plea your case. Now you need to hire an attorney before that court appearance, and you’re wondering, ‘which attorney do I need?’, among many other questions.
Read on as we answer a few questions and provide some helpful tips on finding the right criminal law attorney for the charges you’re facing. With the first question being, is an attorney and a lawyer the same thing?
Let’s take a moment to differentiate between the two terms, attorney vs lawyer, so that we have a better understanding of which one you want to call when charged with a crime. While both is somebody that has an education in law, there are technical differences between an attorney and a lawyer.
The duties of an attorney and a lawyer are distinct as the definition. Both an attorney and a lawyer have a formal education and training in the law, but they utilize their education and training in different ways. These are explained as follows:
- The word attorney comes from the French with the meaning “to act on the behalf of others”. It is an abbreviation of “attorney at law”, the formal title of a person that is educated and trained in matters of law, and practices that training in court. A basic definition would be a person that is a ‘practitioner in a court of law’. An attorney practices law in a court room after passing the bar exam. Passing the bar exam is a requirement and they are given a specific jurisdiction and must abide by a code of ethics. They are allowed to practice civil law and criminal law.
- The word lawyer come from Middle English origins, and references a person that is educated and trained in law by attending law school and has passed the bar exam. A lawyer has completed law school as well as passed the bar exam. However, a lawyer may become a legal advisor or consultant in a specialized field where they provide legal advice to persons needing such help with areas like estate law, immigration law, or tax law.
How do I find an attorney in my area?
In Tennessee, to find an attorney, asking someone you know that used the services of an attorney is one of the best ways. Or you can contact a referral service through the local state bar association which you can access through an internet search.
Many attorneys will off a consultation for free or a low rate where they will discuss the details of your case. This is a question and answer sessions for both the attorney and you. The goal of a meeting like this to help you find the right attorney for you that you’re comfortable with and have a trust factor. Here are recommended questions that you should ask during this consultation meeting.
1. How long have you been practicing law?
An attorney’s expertise and experience can have an impact on how your case is resolved. A veteran attorney will usually have more experience with the judge assigned to your case than a beginner attorney.
2. What type of cases do you handle, misdemeanor vs felony and what percentage is your practice devoted to handling in this area?
If the majority of an attorney’s practice is for adoption or divorce, this may not be the attorney for your felony drug charges. Just because they know the laws for felony drug charges doesn’t meant that is their area of expertise.
3. What is the typical client for your practice?
This is an often-overlooked question that is essential in choosing the right attorney. If this attorney handles corporate cases, they may not have the time for misdemeanor shoplifting case. Is this attorney caseload mostly individuals of high net worth or college students? That can speak volumes in the type of clients the represent and how they represent them.
4. How many cases similar to mine have you had?
An attorney’s track record is important and not an area you should be shy about asking. If they have handled 100 cases like yours and got favorable results with wins, this is the attorney for you.
5. Do you have special training other than your law degree?
If your case is a DUI, you don’t need an attorney that has focused on patent cases.
6. What are your costs, fees, and rates? How do you bill your clients? Will you handle all aspects of my account or does your legal assistant, paralegal, or secretary handle most of the process?
You need to know up front if you’re able to afford this attorney’s services. Knowing what you’re expected to pay upfront and throughout your case is important upfront. If they need a $10,000 retainer, do you have that kind of money?
7. What is your philosophy in representing your clients?
There are two ways every case can be approached by an attorney. For instance, if you’re filing for divorce and want to keep it amicable, you do not need an attorney with a “go for the kill” approach. On the flip side, maybe you want an attorney with that approach in closing a corporate merger, you don’t need a passive attorney.
8. Are there different ways to resolve this legal problem?
Yes, this is asking the attorney if there is a way to handle this without using their services, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. They may recommend arbitration or other options outside of court. A good attorney won’t hesitate to suggest other ways that won’t cost as much nor take up as much time.
9. How will you keep me updated on my case?
Communication between you and your attorney is key is a successful case, both directions. Ask the attorney the frequency you’ll be updated and what type of circumstances. You should hire an attorney that keeps you updated regularly and when something significant comes up, especially court dates.
10. What you see the outcome of my case to be?
Nobody can tell you for sure what the future holds, but this is a fair question to ask any attorney that you’re considering. If they don’t see any positive results but see you doing time behind bars with no parole, then you should keep looking. Check their standing with the State Bar Association.
How do you talk to a lawyer?
Once you have chosen and hire a lawyer, here are on some tips on how to communicate with them:
- Be as honest and candid about your case. The more your lawyer knows, the more they can help you with your case.
- If you have concerns, ask questions. If don’t understand something, ask the lawyer to explain it to you.
- Make sure you understand the costs and fees your lawyer charges, and what your obligations are in paying them.
- Including a third party with your legal counseling could jeopardize your case and your relationship with your lawyer. There are laws regarding lawyer-client confidentiality, which your lawyer can explain to you before you bring a third party into the picture.
- Provide your lawyer with any and all documentations at your first meeting. This include any emails, physical letters. Then bring them anything you get after you have signed a contract for their representation.
What if you can’t afford a lawyer, you may be wondering, how do I find a pro bono lawyer? Depending on your case and financial situation, there are a variety of strategies that can be utilized in getting free or cheap legal advice and assistance.
In a criminal case, when you’re arraigned before a judge, it is the constitutional right that a person who can’t afford an attorney is appointment one by the courts. However, in civil case, such as a dispute between two parties, like a divorce or issue with a neighbor, you need to be creative in getting legal help. A few ways you can do this are:
- Contact the courthouse where your case is filed.
- Seek free consultations by attorneys and lawyers.
- Check with the local legal aid society.
- Contact a local law school.
- Contact the county and state bar associations.
Call 901-476-1125 today for your bail needs in Covington, TN.