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The Five Biggest Mistakes Made When Hiring an Okaloosa County Criminal Defense Lawyer

PRESS RELEASE (8/25/2013)- Whether located in Crestview, Fort Walton Beach or Destin, Florida criminal defense lawyers have busy law firms. Yet, many are not following the steps needed to properly represent you. Here are the five biggest mistakes consumers make when hiring a Florida DUI & criminal defense lawyer:

1) Not learning about criminal law legal procedure.

This is a critical mistake for several reasons. Your lawyer should be able to explain each step of what will happen to you next. Many consumers retain legal counsel only to end up calling, emailing and meeting endlessly because the process is never explained by the legal team. The “not knowing” can be extremely stressful. Criminal prosecution is extremely dangerous for the person arrested, and both client and loved ones suffer far more when unprepared for the delays and uncertainty of the criminal justice system.

Tip: Your lawyer should provide written materials, videos, and emotional support materials for you and your loved ones. You need to understand each step of the legal process, provide written documentation about what happened, dress precisely for any and all court appearances, and manage your stress according to a proven stress management program.

2) The truth most do not want to hear: your legal counselor is not your emotional counselor.

Pareto’s law, often called the 80/20 Rule, should always be kept in mind: 80% of what lawyers do only produces about 20% of the result in a legal matter. Why are criminal defense lawyers so notoriously unproductive? Client hand-holding.

Many clients continue to surf the Internet, email daily, call constantly and have an unrealistic belief that lots of attorney-client contact will keep them informed and, thus, reduce stress. However, this simply is not true. Weeks or even months will pass before your DUI or criminal defense lawyer can provide certainty regarding every aspect of your case, from plea offers to defenses.

As a result, most DUI and criminal defense clients (and especially their family members) become frustrated and begin to externalize blame rather than take effective measures to control their own personal psychology.

Your lawyer cares, but you need a hard-nosed strategist, not chat buddy. DUI & criminal defense cases are extremely serious, and the lawyers who handle them are trained to be deeply analytical and emotionally detached.

The best DUI & criminal defense lawyers are aware of their client’s emotional needs and some have even created programs for clients and their families.

Tip: Find out if the law firm has a system for dealing with the stress of criminal prosecution, and examine it carefully. Very few have detailed stress reduction systems, and you are going to need one. Everyone needs their hand to be held occasionally – just make sure your lawyer isn’t the one holding your hand.

3) You hire a solitary jack-of-all-trades rather than a specialist, who knows how to build high quality legal defense teams.

The medical profession uses medical teams, and the best lawyers and law firms use legal teams to get the best possible result for you. Moreover, many states, like Florida, have a certification program administered by the state bar association. The Florida Bar has two (2) specialization programs in criminal law: criminal trial law and criminal appellate law. However, many people Google for a Florida DUI specialist, but there is no specialization program for Florida DUI law.

However, regardless of the type of criminal law case you have, a team-building criminal law specialist is more familiar with the Rules of Criminal Procedure, the case law, fact patterns, as well as dangers and pitfalls, a less experienced attorney might miss.

Tip: Hire an attorney who is criminal law specialist who only practices criminal law, or one who has a practice which is eighty (80) percent criminal defense law or more. Better, hire one with experience leading and building high quality legal teams with actual trial experience.

4) Delay.

Problems do not get better over time, and, in criminal cases, delay can mean the difference between a negotiated dismissal and a record that will be with you forever. Worse, many people get sentenced to imprisonment each day in Florida solely because they tried to handle a criminal case DIY. The only time you should even consider a “Do It Yourself” approach is if you are comfortable with an unexpected jail sentence. There is a reason we call it “Courthouse Surprise.”

Tip: Here is a simple rule of thumb regarding whether you need to hire a lawyer to defend you in Florida: can you legally be sentenced to imprisonment? If your paperwork has a court date and the possibility of jail or prison time for your charge, hire an attorney immediately.

5) Price-based shopping and monthly payment plans.

Criminal defense attorneys expect to be paid up front, except in unusual circumstances involving extremely high legal fees (over $25,000.00).

Yet many attempt to negotiate lower fees or monthly payment plans. Everyone wants a good deal, but if you succeed, this is a warning flag for two reasons.

First, if your DUI or criminal defense lawyer cannot stand up and say “no” to a lay person, do you think they can stand up to the prosecutor? Not at all.

Second, clients who “fee dicker” have lower in-house Client Ratings. Remember, just as you are rating potential attorneys, most law firms have much more experience rating prospective clients. A lower Client Rating means less time and attention to your case.

Why? Lawyers hate both payment plans and “fee shoppers.” When accepting a reduced fee or payment plan case, the lawyer will have to work longer and harder to make up for the reduction in fee or delay in payment. There is only so much time in a day, and additional “free” initial consultation mean less time available for existing clients. Specifically, the ones who owe money or paid a reduced fee.

Tip: Pay your legal fee up front and you will always go to the front of your criminal defense lawyer’s mind.