What to Look for When Hiring an Attorney

What to Look for When Hiring an Attorney

Most people looking for an attorney have never hired one before. Many of us wind up looking online, in a phone book, or on social media, but the criteria to judge one attorney from another is hard to come by when you don't know what you're looking for. We might ask other people which attorney they recommend, but we all know that every case is different, so doubts are inevitable. This article will help highlight some important criteria that you can use when looking to hire an attorney, criteria that are independent of a personal referral from someone.

There is any number of criteria a person could use when looking for an attorney, and no one piece of information about an attorney is likely to be the piece of information that helps a person make up his or her mind. Because of this, each of the criteria that follow is equally important when looking for an attorney, and they are presented in no particular order due to their equal importance.

Experience

One of the most important criteria anyone could use when deciding on which attorney to hire is the attorney's experience. There are plenty of attorneys who might say they handle a particular kind of case, but you have to ask whether they do or not. For example, there are plenty of attorneys who only handle civil cases, but claim to handle criminal cases as well. In reality, these attorneys only handle minor traffic cases. If someone was to hire such an attorney for a more important case, one for which jail or prison as possible, for instance, then that person might very well regret that decision later. You don't hire a plumber to fix your AC.

Johnson Law Group has been around for more than 20 years, and our attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience. We handle nearly exclusively criminal cases. We do handle certain civil cases, but these are largely cases tied to criminal cases, such as Orders of Protection or No Stalking Orders. We have offices all over central Illinois for a reason: we handle the big cases. We are unafraid—and, in fact, welcome—the hard cases, and I think we get better results than anyone else.

Knowledge

Another criterion to consider when deciding which attorney to hire is the knowledge of that attorney. Knowledge largely comes from the attorney's experience, both in terms of the cases that the attorney has handled and the counties in which he or she has practiced. It's easy for an attorney who works alone to miss certain things. Because we work together, we combine our experience to make sure nothing gets missed. Knowledge also comes from keeping on top of all of the new laws and appellate court rulings that come out, and my firm has put in place a system to make sure that all of the attorneys don't miss anything. As a result, we're always at the front of the law, instead of learning about its changes after someone hires us to represent them.

Information

Having knowledge is great, but it means nothing if you cannot relay that information to other people clearly and concisely. I have to admit that most attorneys are, unfortunately, not the best at explaining things to people. Like most people in a specific profession, we tend to use our language that only those in the profession can understand. To make matters even worse, the law, what options a person has, and so on, can be very, very complex, not to mention heavily nuanced, making explaining it to people unfamiliar with the complexities even harder.

My partners and I pride ourselves on being able to relay even the most complex information to anyone, regardless of his or her background. Giving our clients more information, not less, is a point of pride here, and, unlike others, we're happy to do so, even when it may be time-consuming. The reason is simple: knowledge is power, and a person cannot be empowered without that knowledge being relayed. That's what we do for our clients every day.

Cost

The cost will always be a consideration for anyone looking to hire an attorney. There are several myths about attorney fees, and people frequently assume they cannot afford an attorney without ever even asking. At Johnson Law Groups, our fees for the vast majority of our cases are flat. We have heard horror stories about people being charged left and right for all kinds of things, getting one bill after the other, and we hear about the frustration this causes them. Because of this, we pride ourselves on being upfront with people concerning what their case will cost, because no one should be in the dark when it comes to getting the best team of attorneys behind them.

Attention

Finally, anyone looking to hire an attorney will want the attention he or she deserves. Attention comes in two kinds. The first is getting answers when you have questions, and the second is making sure that your case is being worked on. Most attorneys have receptionists, who simply take messages when a client has a question, and, after leaving a message, the client waits too long for a response. Our staff was specially selected and trained to be more than your average staff, and, because of this, they are always available to clients to answer any questions they can answer. Even more, our attorneys regularly schedule telephone and in-person visits with clients while working on cases, so that our clients are completely informed at every step of the way. We go one step further as well, and make ourselves available 24 hours a day if people have questions. Attention is what you deserve, and attention is what you'll get with Johnson Law Group.

Does An Attorney's Knowledge Matter?

There's an adage that knowledge is power, and this is nowhere as true as with the law. Probably every reader has heard that the person who represents himself has a fool for a client. The reason is the knowledge involved, and the ability to remain objective, something that comes to attorneys in time and that comes to everyone with experience. Two aspects make up a good attorney's knowledge, and they are knowledgeable of the law and knowledge of the parties involved.

Common Misconceptions

To begin, two common misconceptions should be cleared up. First, what people who are not attorneys frequently misunderstand is that law school does not prepare an attorney to practice law. Frequently, the legal principles that attorneys studied in law school have real nuances and complexities in the real world. Secondly, people frequently think that an attorney can just study what the law is. Certainly, an attorney can study to find out something that he or she does not know, but, just as with law school, studying something is far different from practicing it.

Attorney Knowledge of the Law

When it comes to an attorney's knowledge, there are two important elements. The first is that any attorney must know the law. No one wants to be represented by an attorney unaware of what the law is on a particular subject. As was discussed above, not everything learned in law school is the practice case. This is the difference between the academic study of law and the actual practice of law.

For example, it would seem from the studying the law that when a police dog, or K-9, sniffs and finds drugs, that the search is good, but there are several nuances and complexities in the real world, such as how long it took the dog to arrive, and so on, that can play into whether or not the dog sniff was valid or not. Being able to spot the difference between, for example, a legal search and an illegal one can make or break a criminal case and has real-life consequences for people's lives. You don't want to depend on an attorney studying something when someone's liberty is in the balance. Being familiar with these nuances and complexities means that an attorney can protect your liberty.

Knowledge of Involved Parties

The second important element to an attorney's knowledge is the attorney's knowledge of the parties involved in a case. When I speak here of parties, I refer to everyone involved from the police officer, who arrested someone, to the state, who prosecutes someone, to even the judge, who will rule on motions and objections at trial. Knowing the particular parties, how they will handle issues that come up, and, most importantly, being able to predict how they will react under particular circumstances, can often mean making the right or wrong decision in your case.

Any attorney representing someone needs to know with whom he or she is dealing. Police do not always exercise their authority correctly within the confines of the Constitution, prosecutors do not always seek justice instead of convictions, and judges do not always enforce the law the way you or I think they should. Knowing and being able to predict how a particular party will react under specific circumstances only comes with knowledge, and whenever seeking an attorney, knowledge should be a key consideration.

Knowledge is Essential

Knowledge is essential at Johnson Law Group. We work together, putting our more than 100 years of experience to work on our clients' cases. Our attorneys make sure they stay on top of the new law, whether it be an upcoming change in a statute or a new appellate ruling on existing law. The reason is simple: knowledge is power. We empower our clients and get the results.

Does My Attorney's Experience Matter in a Criminal Case?

The short answer is yes. When it comes to a criminal case, the result can often depend on an attorney's experience. That experience can come both in terms of the practice of law and the rapport that the attorney has with others.

Representing a client in a criminal case means first and foremost protecting that client's liberty by keeping the client out of jail or prison. Doing so can sometimes be a hard thing, but familiarity with the law, familiarity with how criminal cases are handled in a particular county, and comfort in being in court with all the resources of the state against you can make or break whether a person keeps his or her liberty.

By handling nearly exclusively criminal cases, we guarantee that our attorneys are in the best possible position to always stay on top of the law. By being structured the way we are, we make sure all of our attorneys receive regular updates on new appellate court cases that are decided and new laws that are passed. By having offices all over central Illinois, we guarantee that our attorneys are familiar with the particular nuances of every county in which we practice. But we have an additional advantage, not every criminal defense attorney can claim.

By and large, we are all former prosecutors, which gives our attorneys a unique advantage. First, as former prosecutors, we know how the prosecution thinks, and knowing before one walks into court how a prosecutor will approach a particular case can often help make the difference in protecting a client's liberty and future. Secondly, by being former prosecutors, we are accustomed to being in a courtroom. Unlike so many attorneys who are not in court regularly or who do not appear in hearings and trials regularly, we are accustomed to and comfortable in a courtroom, routinely handling all kinds of hearings and trials.

Another aspect of the experience that helps get results for our clients is the rapport we have with others in the system. There are instances in which a case will be all or nothing, and instances in which we have to be able to work out an outcome. By having the respect of our peers and the prosecutors with whom we deal, we can get the best possible results for our clients, not just making them happy, but also protecting their liberty.

In the end, not all attorneys are made equal. Sadly, too many attorneys claim to handle criminal cases when their record and actual experience is wanting. Anyone charged with a crime needs the help that comes with having more than 100 years of combined experience handling criminal cases that Johnson Law Group offers. We put that experience to work for every one of our clients, and we get results.

Copyright © 2017 by Brendan Bukalski
The information provided in this column is general in nature, and should not be relied upon as legal advice or interpreted as creating an attorney-client relationship. As a general rule, all specific legal problems should be handled by an individual's attorney. All rights reserved. Any copying, duplication, or commercial use of the information contained in this column is strictly prohibited without prior permission.
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