Many attorneys who practice criminal law also take DUI cases. These “Jacks Of All Trades” may or may not have the knowledge needed to help you in your DUI case. Choosing an attorney who focuses his or her practice on DUI defense may have a significant effect on the outcome of your case. Some states recognize Board Certification in the area of DUI and others do not. It is important that you take the time to interview multiple attorneys before you decide who you will give your hard earned money too. As with many things, you get what you pay for. Hiring the cheapest attorney is not usually a good idea. However, there may be many overpriced lawyers in your market. How do you know who to hire? There are some simple guidelines you can use to help figure out who you should hire.
1) Does the Attorney have time for you – Many people tell me that they had to call a lawyers office multiple times as a potential client before they received a return phone call. This is a warning sign. The number one complaint against lawyers in Florida is that they do not return calls from clients. If an attorney does not have time to speak with you when you are looking to pay them money, the situation is not likely to get better once you have paid them. Further, during your initial consultation, you should judge whether or not you were rushed or if the attorney spent the time to answer your questions and review your case thoroughly.
2) Who will handle your case – Often times when you hire a law firm to represent you, you meet with the person whose name is on the door when you are trying to decide who to hire, and then never see or hear from that person again. When meeting with a lawyer, you should ask them if they will personally be involved in your case. If you have a question, will you be able to speak with them or will you be delegated to a subordinate. Will they be handling your court appearances personally? If your case goes to trial, will they be the lawyer sitting by your side? Some law firms use a team approach, meaning that multiple lawyers will work on your case. This is not necessarily a bad thing. There is an old saying that two heads are better than one. The important thing is that you ask about this and have a clear understanding about how your case will be handled. If you want a particular lawyer to handle your matter you should let the person you are meeting with know that and ask if it will be a problem. After all if you are paying for a senior partner to handle your case, having a first year associate show up to “cover” your trial should be unacceptable.
3) Professional Associations and Active Participation. – Organizations such as the National College for DUI Defense are a great way to find an attorney whose practice is focused on DUI Defense. However, being a member is not enough. Ask the lawyer you are meeting with when they last attended a meeting or continuing education class sponsored by the organization. Ask how many meetings or classes they have participated in and how often they attend DUI education courses.
4) Teaching and Scholarly Works – The best of the best often teach other lawyers how to do it right. Ask the lawyer you meet with when the last time they taught a continuing legal education class in DUI Defense was. Most have never done this. The recognized leaders in the field will be asked to teach, not only in their local area, but nationwide. Further, a skilled attorney may have written a book or books on the area they are well known for. Ask the lawyer if they have ever written any books, then ask to see the books they have written. Also ask if they have ever written any published articles in magazines focused on criminal defense and DUI.
5) Board Certification – Although there may be great lawyers who practice DUI Defense who are not Board Certified, a good way to find a great DUI Lawyer is to look for one that is Board Certified. Board Certified lawyers usually must pass a rigorous examination process, including practical skills testing, written skills testing, oral advocacy and a written examination. Further, to become Board Certified an attorney must usually demonstrate a minimum level of experience in the area of law in which they are Board Certified, including a certain number of hearings and trials dealing with the area of expertise. Board Certification is one of the highest levels of recognition of expertise an attorney can accomplish. Most attorneys never accomplish Board Certification.
6) Specialized Knowledge – Ask the attorney questions about possible defenses in your case. See if they tell you anything different than everyone else. An attorney who focuses his practice on DUI defense will often see defenses that other attorneys do not. Because they have the time to learn the ins and outs of DUI Defense they will be able to better help you than an attorney who knows a little bit about a lot of things.
7) Attorney Review and Rating Sites: Sites like Martindale-Hubble and AVVO, allow the public and other lawyers to write reviews about the services provided by lawyers. Although you should read these skeptically, an attorney that has great reviews by former clients is likely to work just as hard for you. Look particularly at the attorneys scores for communication. Do not just look at the number of stars they receive or for the highest number score, actually read the reviews and see the general level of satisfaction with the services provided.
Unfortunately, there is no way to ensure the attorney you select will work hard for you, but following the general guidelines above, you should be able to find a good attorney who will fight to protect you. If something sounds to good or too cheap to be true, it usually is not true. When shopping for a lawyer, do not be afraid to asks questions. Use you instincts. If it does not feel right, it is probably not right. Good Luck in your search and on your case.
The experienced DUI attorneys at Katz & Phillips, P.A. are available to help you throughout the State of Florida, with offices in Gainesville, Tavares, Longwood, Orlando, and Tampa. The primary focus of the entire firm is DUI defense. David Katz is Board Certified by the National College for DUI Defense as one of only three DUI Defense Specialist in the State of Florida. Our attorneys have authored or co-authored eight books on DUI and Criminal Defense and speak throughout the country on DUI and DUI related topics. We are available to assist you and answer your questions. Please call today statewide toll-free at 866-464-0782