Being accused and charged of crime in Skagit County can be an intimidating situation. whether you are charged with a Mt. Vernon DUI, a Burlington Theft, or Skagit County felony, you need a Skagit County Lawyer to represent you from the beginning. But how do you choose a Lawyer? Where do you begin? What questions should you ask? A personal recommendation from someone you know is usually the best starting point, but do your own research as well. The Lawyer you choose is going to have an enormous impact on your case and its eventual impact on your future. Below are a few starting points to determine help you choose a lawyer to best represent you.
What kind of lawyer do you need? The first step is to determine what kind of lawyer you need. If you have been charged with a crime in Skagit County, you need a Skagit County criminal defense lawyer. If it is an eviction, you need a landlord/tenant lawyer. If you want to sue someone for an injury or a harm done, you want either a personal injury lawyer or a civil attorney. There are numerous online resources to help you narrow your search down to the specific category of lawyer you need.
Compile a list of at least 3 lawyers: Utilizing Google, Avvo.com, personal recommendations, or other sources, compile a list of at least 3 lawyers that have the skill you need. Then, contact them and set of a consultation. Most criminal defense attorneys like myself offer a free initial consultation. This does not mean that you need to set up 3 separate consultations, but at least call the offices and get a feel for how they do business. Is the lawyer willing to speak with you on the phone? How difficult is it get an appointment with the lawyer? Will they discuss fees over the phone or only in person? Trust and compatibility are both necessary for a productive attorney/client relationship. You should be able to get an initial feel for this by placing a phone call to the Law Firm.
Meet with you best candidates: After placing the phone calls, set up a consultation (I recommend in person, however an in depth consult over the phone or skype may accomplish this goal as well). Speak with them about your case, your history, your goals and get their feedback. Are they giving you honest and realistic feedback? Or are they just telling you what you want to hear? It is rare that a criminal charge will be defended without any difficult decisions to make (plea to a lesser charge vs. trial etc). You need a lawyer that is going to be honest and up front, and that starts with the consultation. You want a skilled lawyer, not just a skilled salesman.
Fully discuss fees: This is particularly important if you are paying hourly or based on a percentage if the case is won. Discuss the fees and get it all in writing. Since I am a criminal defense lawyer, I will touch on how we establish fees. The Washington State Bar Association does not allow criminal defense lawyers to base their fees on a contingent fee (meaning we are only paid if we win). So we must either charge hourly or a flat fee. A flat fee is established up front by the attorney making an assessment of the case and the time that will be involved. Some lawyers will also break up their services into flat fee categories. Meaning, this is the price for representation up to a certain established point, then this amount if you want to continue to fight, then this amount for trial. An example of this is that I charge a flat fee for all representation up to the determination to go to trial. The vast majority of cases in Washington State settle by plea agreement prior to trial. I do not believe in charging someone for a service they may not utilize, so I charge a flat affordable fee for representation, then an hourly fee for trial should the determination be made that trial is the way to go. No matter what, get the fee structure in writing and make sure you understand it.
Find an attorney that fits you financial means: If you cannot afford a lawyer, one will be provided to you by the court. However, you do not get to choose your public defender, they are assigned. There are some great public defenders out there, but they are very typically overworked and underpaid. If you are able to retain a private lawyer, you get to choose someone you trust and they are typically mush more accessible. You do not need to be rich or have an immense savings to afford a lawyer. There is a wide range of lawyers that all charge different amounts, with different size retainers, and some, like myself, offer affordable payment plans as well. The cost of an attorney is not always reflective of their skill. Established attorneys that have been in practice for decades can often charge much more. However, laws change rapidly, case-law changes decisions, and Judges and prosecutors are replaced. What worked in criminal defense in 1985 may not be relevant anymore. Speak with the Lawyer to determine their skill, knowledge and expertise. Do not just rely on how long they have been a lawyer.
I hope this helps you on the first step to determining the best Skagit County Lawyer for you. If you have any questions, please feel fee to leave them in the comment section. If you or a loved one has been accused of a crime in Skagit County, call the Law Firm of Lucas D. McWethy for a free consultation.