Competence. Listen actively as you interview lawyers. Does s/he make sense? Does s/he specialize in the area of law you discuss? How about recent specialized training in the relevant areas?
Affiliations. Does the lawyer belong to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers? You want a true grit DWI defense attorney. All the best DUI lawyers are members of their own local and state associations, and, the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers - the NACDL. Affiliate bar associations of the NACDL can be found on their affiliates page.
Someone you can trust. Can you speak with and trust the attorney you interview? Do you feel relieved and free to talk? Were you "talked down" to, were you treated with respect?
Have any complaints been made against the attorney in the past? Does s/he do what they say they will do? Did they show up for your appointment on time? Use common sense.
Experience & Skill. Does the lawyer have experience in the criminal justice system? What experience in the system does s/he have? If the lawyer holds himself out to be a "specialist," s/he must have passed a special examination given by a governing board or agency.
Criminal Defense or DUI Attorney. Because DUI is one of the most frequently charged offenses against the average, everyday citizen, some attorneys specialize in DUI matters. Criminal defense attorneys represent you in DUI and other criminal matters as well.
Reasonable Fee. Attorney fees are always negotiable in criminal and DUI cases. Fees are usually paid up-front or in payments prior to the end of the case. Many attorneys will accommodate an individual's special circumstances and you should always inquire about the ability to pay over time. Most attorneys will allow this if you have to go to trial due to an uncooperative prosecutor.
What about costs? Ask before you sign. You should have clear questions about your matter at the consultation. Expect your attorney to be a communication expert. Expect to understand and be understood. Expect a thorough interview about the facts of your case. Ask questions and tell the attorney all of your concerns.
What do Attorneys do? DUI and other misdemeanor matters take at least two or more appearances before trial, let alone out-of-court time. Does the fee include a discovery motion, a motion to suppress, a recusal motion, or a motion to dismiss? Does the fee include trial? Does the fee include the DMV hearing? Every DUI case must challenge the state's taking your license or you automatically lose.
What to do next. Get a written quote and seek a second opinion. A retainer agreement is a legal contract that binds you to certain obligations including paying an attorney a fee. Sign a contract only when you feel sure about the attorney of your choice.
Non-refundable fees. Many attorneys quote a flat, non-refundable fee for legal work on your case. This is legal in California because the attorney is setting aside valuable time for your matter and most likely giving up other business. Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you are certain about your choice of an attorney. Use common sense, and don't forget you can fire your attorney at any time.
The State Bar
All attorneys are governed by rules of ethical and professional conduct. The State Bar can discipline attorneys who violate these rules of conduct. Anybody can check up on an attorney before they call, interview, or sign on the dotted line.
All the State Bars are on this page under construction - United States State Bar Associations
The California State Bar offers a free pamphlet: How I Can Find and Hire the Right Lawyer? This is available upon request and on the Internet. In its section, Should I hire the lawyer?, the pamphlet recommends:
You can decide to hire the lawyer at your first meeting, or you can take time to think things over. You also might want to ask yourself these questions:
- Will you be comfortable working closely with the lawyer?
- Do you believe the lawyer has the experience and skill to handle your case?
- Do you understand the lawyer's explanation of what your case involves?
- Does the fee seem reasonable?
If your answer to one or more of these questions is "no," you probably should talk with another lawyer. If all your answers are "yes," you may have found the right lawyer for you.
By Joshua Dale