How to Select an Attorney
- Find out how long a lawyer has been licensed and if he or she has been disciplined by the Board of Professional Responsibility using this link: http://tbpr.org/Consumers/AttorneySearch/
- Don’t be fooled by the shiny wrapper! Slick advertising doesn’t necessarily mean competent representation. I suggest using website information primarily for contact information. Choose the lawyer with the knowledge and experience to best handle your legal issue.
- Get input. Let your family and friends know you are looking for an attorney and what kind of issue you have.
- Identify your need. Just because your aunt liked the lawyer who handled her divorce does not mean that would be a good choice to handle a criminal charge.
- Understand the lawyer’s fee structure. Many lawyers charge a flat fee for criminal cases, with a different fee for each level of court. In Tennessee most cases begin in General Sessions and will end up in Circuit Criminal Court if they are felonies or misdemeanors not resolved in the lower court. Only a small percentage of criminal cases end up in an appellate court. Ask what the fee will be for each level and get it in writing.
- Many lawyers charge a retainer for civil cases and bill against that retainer at a preset hourly rate until the retainer is exhausted. You can expect to get a monthly bill from that point or you might be asked to provide another retainer. It is important to know this up front as if you are not able to continue to pay the fees, many lawyers will move to withdraw as your attorney of record even if your case is unresolved.
- Know the lawyer’s practice preferences. Some criminal defense lawyers prefer to work only in a particular level court, like General Sessions. Some lawyers do not do jury trials and many lawyers do not do appeals. If you do not want to plead your case out for whatever the district attorney is offering, you may need a lawyer that will take your case all the way instead of pressure you to take a deal.
I believe the two most important characteristics of a good lawyer
are experience and heart, not only the kind of heart that
will fight for you,
but the kind of heart that will
care what happens to your case.
-- Venus Niner, Esq.