What Kind of Attorney Do I Need?
Not knowing who to call to help in a particular legal matters is often a problem not only for consumers but also for small businesses. Sometimes even attorneys don’t know what type of attorney would handle a certain matter or where the attorney that can handle the matter can be found, or which attorney handles such mattes. There is also a lot of confusion about whether it is something where a consumer can call an attorney to put someone in jail. The problem can become worse for consumers that have lived much of their life in other countries with very different laws. The first thing in getting to the right attorney is to know what you hope or expect to achieve. Consumes are often poor communications, not because they cannot communicate what they want, but because they assume they know what they want. For example there is a difference between wanting to have something in writing to distribute your property after you pass away and asking for a will to be drawn up. Wills are not very common at all. Living trusts are all the rage now a days and is for good reason, they tend to provide for what people want.
Attorneys are involved in all types of legal matters and most consumers make themselves available and attempt to promote their availability through publications, the internet, advertising, and seminars. Then there are cases that are really not consumer oriented and in those cases attorneys are harder to find. The irony is that many of these attorneys are looking for more work, but don’t go out of their way to tell the world that they are available.
Even when a consumer has an idea as to what type of attorney they need the will often get rejected and not get to talk to an attorney. When this happens the consumer is very frustrated, because more often than not they speak with a receptionist or secretary and get no guidance other than they don’t handle those cases.
The most common type of attorney consumers needs is probably family law attorneys, followed by criminal law attorneys. The first thing the prospective client discovers is that it is expensive, very expensive to hire an attorney. Typically a retainer is required which can often start at $10,000. What is the point of the retainer and why so high you may ask? The hourly rate for legal work is around $350 per hour in California and a lot of clients do not pay their bills, even after the retainer has been used up. It has happened to almost all attorneys that do hourly work. The reason the work is expensive is not so much that it is really expensive on an hourly basis, but rather than cases require a lot of work. Just preparing a petition for a divorce for example may entail a couple of hours of attorney time and a maybe 10 hours of paralegal time. Even if the paralegal is only earning $25 an hour, it is still a lot of time. By the time a divorce is concluded there may be as many as 100 hours of work.
Other services which are equally or even more expensive do not take as long to
bring to a conclusion and may appear more reasonable, but broken on an hourly basis can be much more expensive. For example you may need some roofing work done and it may take a 8 hours to complete and you may have to pay $3,000 that is $375 an hour. Similarly you may see your doctor for 10 minutes and have a co-pay of $30 and your health insurance may have paid $250 for the visit that is $1,530 an hour. Some doctors are shocked when they find out how much patients are paying for their services.
In any case, family law attorneys can often specialize in what they do. You can have attorneys that handle all aspects of family some only handle child custody, some handle things pertaining to eggs and sperm, and some may only handle divorces. So as a consumer knowing what service you are looking for is the first step to finding the right attorney. Then you need know which side you are on and whether you the attorney represents your gender. Some attorneys only represent the husband or father, because typically they earn more and can pay the bills. It is not that they are specialists in representing a particular gender it is just that they are looking for the party that is best suited to pay the bills. Before hiring an attorney, you should also consider whether it is really something you should be fighting about. For example, if you are the father and want custody of a child, do you really love the child or are you just avenging yourself?
If it is about revenge don’t do it. There is no benefit to anyone when you are taking revenge, everyone is unhappy, often even attorneys regret taking cases when they know the case is about revenge. Instead of paying $20,000 fighting over the dog, set it aside and take a nice vacation, and when you get back buy yourself a puppy. Similarly don’t waste $100,000 fighting over custody of your children. You may hate your spouse, but your spouse loves the kids just as much. If they don’t want the kids, they will let you keep them, if you are disinterested.
Once you know are getting divorced, don’t focus on retaliation, instead talk to your confidants, letting sink in and then discuss resolution in a friendly matter. Divide property up, make arrangements for visitation rights, if you have kids, and so on. Then you can go to a paralegal to prepare your paper work and you are out of it for under $1,000. Once you know that you need a divorce, and know how to divide the property, then you know that you may be able to get it done without an attorney. You may have issues pertaining to things you are not sure about, such as a pension. In such case you can consult with an attorney to discuss your rights to a pension and your spouses right to the pension.
Then you can make wise decisions in discussions with your spouse. Sometimes it is impossible or nearly impossible to talk to your spouse, in which case you may be able to find a mediator to come help the two sides reach an agreement without talking to each other directly. Bottom line, you need to know what you are trying to achieve before you know what type of a lawyer you need. Don’t let the attorney dictate what you need or want. Attorneys are trained to advocate aggressively and win for their client every right they are entitled too, but that is not necessarily what you are trying to achieve. What is the benefit of getting a plant that will cost you $10,000 in attorney fees? Let it go, buy another one for $50.
In criminal cases there are two sides to every case. Some people do not know that the State decides when they are going to prosecute someone. Just because someone was DUI and involved in an accident, does not mean they will go to jail, they same is true if they have stolen your property. As a consumer you have very little say in these matters. The district attorneys office decides which cases they will pursue and in many instances the guilty will be let off. It is true that Blacks and Latinos are disproportionally represented and it is for a reason the DA’s office decides how to proceed. Generally speaking a private attorney will not be interested in discussing cases involving a crime.
In some instances criminal cases also have a civil cross over. For example if someone accidentally kills another person or intentionally kills another person, then you may have a civil cross over. In some instances your only remedy is a civil case. Auto accidents often result in death. Death can result because the defendant was DUI, driving too fast, or racing. Depending on the circumstances the defendant may or may not be prosecuted, but in all these cases the plaintiff will be successful in a wrongful death lawsuit. A car accident attorney can generally handle wrongful death actions. These lawsuits will not be handled a DA or the public defenders office.
The DA’s office generally will not prosecute when there is a death in an accident, because for a case to be criminal the defendant has to do cause death intentional or with extreme recklessness. For example shooting in your backyard may be purely for purposes other than killing a human being, but if someone is shot and killed, it would be so reckless that criminal charges would be appropriate.
In some cases a private attorney can help victims of injury or death of their loved ones, but only for the purpose of obtaining compensation. The private attorney cannot help, if the victim wants the perpetrator prosecuted and put in jail. Once determining what type of attorney you need is about what the goal is. If you seek the defendant to be put in jail a private attorney will not be able to help.
When circumstances are different and you are seeking someone to help to keep someone out of jail a private attorney can help. A criminal defense attorney can be very helpful in the majority of cases. Most cases are negotiated for the purpose of lessening the punishment. A criminal defendant is entitled to have an attorney if they cannot afford one, which is probably the vast majority of defendants. The public defenders office handles the defense of this cases. Some public defenders are very good lawyers and on average get better results for their clients. That is just the average and in some instances the criminal defendant is worst off. Private lawyers are very expensive as the process moves rapidly and is often very time consuming. Some cases that go to trial can run 30 days or more. Each day can cost $3,000, so just for the trial alone, the bills can be $90,000 or more. In many instances what happens is that the private attorney is hired, but later the attorney withdraws because the criminal defendant’s family had no appreciation for the costs that would be involved.
Another element often overlooked in criminal cases and other cases that go to trial is that often experts are retained. Experts are more expensive than attorneys some charge as much as a $1,000 an hour. Medical doctors routinely charge $8,000 to testify at trial in the morning or afternoon. If the doctor is schedule to testify and is not called as schedule, then another $8,000 is billed. For example of the doctor is scheduled to testify in the morning, but does not testify until after lunch then another $8,000 is billed. In other words, trial testimony is divided into two parts, morning and afternoon and regardless of whether the witness testifies or not, charges are incurred for waiting a fixed amount per session. Families hiring private attorneys often end up paying a lot of money up front and run out of money, before the case even goes to trial because of all these unexpected costs. So once again you need to know what you are looking for before even hiring an attorney. If you are looking for excellent representation and have the means to pay $300,000, then a private criminal defense attorney with a lot of trial experience and training may be the best choice. If you are looking for someone other than the public defenders office and only have $10,000, you may be better of saving the money for other purposes. When the public defenders office does not return your calls, it does not mean, the public defender is a terrible attorney, it just means they are too busy to return your calls and know they cannot discuss the case with you, if you are not the client.
One of the biggest mistakes consumers of legal services make is assume that their calls will be returned by someone else’s attorney. If you son, daughter or other relative hires an attorney and you help pay the bills, that does not entitle you to know what is going on. The client is the only person the attorney owes a duty to. The attorney represents the client, not the person paying the bills. This often results in conflict, where the person paying the bills refuses to pay unless the attorney discusses the case. The only option available to the attorney is to withdraw from the case in these instances. This not uncommon in criminal cases, where the criminal defendant is often a relative that you feel is innocent.
Family law attorneys and criminal defense attorneys are not the only type of attorneys. There are attorneys for many other types of situations.