Questions to ask an attorney before hiring.

Your choice of attorney is one of the most important you will make – and one of the most difficult.  You will likely have many options varying from a court-appointed attorney or a myriad of private attorneys.  It is a good idea to have a list of questions in mind to narrow down the field.

You should be comfortable asking these questions, and the prospective attorney should be comfortable answering them.

What is your experience with cases similar to mine?

You will want to know whether your attorney focuses on the area of law you are dealing with.  If you are looking for a DUI attorney, it is not a good idea to hire an attorney that rarely handles that type of case.

Have you been published in a legal book or been featured on a well-known blog?

The thought-leaders in the legal profession are frequently found in local and national legal publications.  If he or she has been published, they can impart added value to their representation of you.

Can I see a copy of a recent motion or brief that you filed?

Believe it or not, there are quite a few attorneys out there that never or rarely file motions on their clients’ behalf.  Before you hire an attorney, ask to see a motion or brief so you’ll know you’re not paying someone to do nothing.

How does your fee system work?

Some attorneys bill on an hourly basis while others charge a flat rate for services.  Ask about the details of flat-rate representation.  If the attorney does not charge extra for a trial, for instance, it is unlikely he or she will want to take your case all the way.

What kind of outcome can I expect?

Ask what the maximum penalty is for your particular set of circumstances.  An experienced attorney will have a good idea of the punishment likely to be imposed in your case.  If you find an attorney who promises more than others, ask them to put it in writing.

What is the most complicated case you have handled?

As in any other field, if the most complicated issue an attorney has ever had does not at least equal the level of yours, it is unlikely he or she will have the experience necessary to adequately manage your case.

Do you take appointed cases?

In any business there are a couple of different ways to make $100.  You can either charge 100 people a dollar, one person $100, or you can fall somewhere in between.  If your attorney takes a lot of appointed cases, he or she is trying for the former and will have a lot of clients.  Each case rightfully demands a lot of time.  Ask how they will have time to give your case the kind of time you need to protect your freedom, your family, and your profession. 

Have you been the lead attorney in cases that shape criminal law in Kansas?

The best attorneys often have had the opportunity to appear in cases critical to the advancement of criminal law. These cases, called caselaw, add to the law by clarifying or even eliminating our statutes.  If your attorney has not been involved in such a case, he or she is unlikely to critically think about the relevant law in your case.

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