Consultation Questions for a Criminal Lawyer
Most criminal lawyers offer a free consultation, allowing you to outline the circumstances that led to your criminal charge and ask general questions. The goal of this meeting is to get a sense of whether you will be comfortable working with the attorney as your case proceeds, not to get in-depth legal advice. Here is a checklist of questions you can bring to that meeting to help determine if they are the right lawyer for you.
Ask About Strengths and Weaknesses of Your Case
No lawyer can guarantee results. Experienced lawyers should be able to evaluate the information they are given during the consultation and make a general assessment of how your case will likely play out. An effective lawyer will be able to identify your case's strengths and weaknesses, which will help shape the defence strategy.
1. Can you explain the charges to me in detail?
2. How does the law apply to my situation?
3. What options are available to me?
4. How strong is my case?
Ask About Experience with Cases Like Yours
During your free consultation, ask them about their experience. There is no substitute for experience when it comes to criminal matters. It is vital that a lawyer not only have experience but the correct type of background and specialization. Some lawyers devote their practice to certain offences. If you are facing a fraud charge, you don't hire a lawyer who primarily represents clients charged with impaired driving. Find out how many cases they have handled that are similar to yours and ask about their outcomes.
5. What is your experience with cases similar to mine?
6. How would you handle my case specifically?
Ask About Possible Defence Strategies
After hearing your account of what led to the charge against you, an experienced lawyer should be able to suggest possible defence strategies for you. They will also be able to anticipate the strategy of the prosecution and can advise you on what to expect. These strategies may change as the case develops, especially after your lawyer examines the discovery provided by the Crown.
At the initial meeting, your lawyer should be able to discuss the potential benefits and disadvantages of each defence strategy.
7. What are the possible defence strategies for my case?
Ask About Court Experience
Lawyers who regularly appear in courtrooms in their municipality develop a rapport with the judges, court staff and Crown prosecutors. Along with having earned the respect of these people, a seasoned lawyer who works locally will have a good idea of what to expect from the court and opposing counsel. That will help them craft your defence and may lead to a better outcome.
8. Do you have experience working with the judges and Crown prosecutors in this area, and how might that benefit my case?
Ask How Much It Will Cost
Mounting a legal defence can be costly, so it may be wise to speak with several lawyers before deciding. But remember, experience is a significant consideration in the legal process. Paying more for a seasoned lawyer may result in a better outcome for you. Most criminal defence lawyers charge block or flat rates. These generally encompass all the work the lawyer will do for you until the case is resolved through a settlement or a guilty plea on your part. If the case proceeds to trial, there will be a new block fee.
Typically, you will be asked to sign a retainer agreement, setting out the fees to be paid and the services to be provided in exchange. If you have a Legal Aid certificate, bring that to the consultation.
9. How much will it cost to handle my case?
10. What is your hourly rate? Are there ways I can reduce the cost? Can I handle some of the legal work myself?
11. Is a retainer fee required upfront?
12. When can I expect to receive bills, and what is the payment schedule?
Ask Who Will Be Working On Your File
This is a critical question. Some firms employ junior associates and paralegals who may be delegated to handle certain aspects of your case. The benefit to you is that the hourly fees will be lower. But you may want a criminal lawyer who does most of the work on your case without relying on those with fewer qualifications, even though that may result in higher fees. Only you can decide which is the best approach.
13. Who will be working on my file, and will any parts of my case be delegated to junior associates or paralegals?
Ask About Potential Outcomes and Impacts
A skilled criminal lawyer should be able to provide a general idea of what to expect if you plead guilty or are found guilty after trial. They should be able to explain how a guilty plea or conviction could impact your driver's license, employment, immigration status, and ability to travel outside the country. Understanding possible outcomes and impacts can help you make informed decisions about proceeding with your case.
14. If I'm successful at trial, what happens next?
15. If I plead guilty, what impact will it have on my driver's license, employment, immigration status, or ability to travel?
16. What kind of sentence is likely if I'm found guilty?
17. Are there minimum or maximum sentences for the charges I'm facing?
Ask About Communication About Progress
Ask how the case management process works and ensure you are comfortable with what is being offered. It would be best if you had regular updates about the progress of your case. Some lawyers ask that you consult with an office manager at the firm if you have queries. Others will promise to return texts or calls when they are available personally.
18. What is the best way to contact you, and how soon can I expect a reply?
Ask About Testimonials From Past Clients
Most lawyers ask for references to share with prospective clients. Testimonials (good or bad) from past clients can offer insight into a lawyer's personality. If others have praised them for effectively resolving their criminal matters, that is a good indication they may be able to achieve the same result for you. If a lawyer does not have testimonials, ask why and decide accordingly.
Look Up Their Credentials
All lawyers have graduated from law school and are licensed within the province or territory where they practise. Before the consultation, you can go to your law society's website (in your province) and find out if the lawyer has been disciplined for any reason. You can also search online to see if they have been mentioned in news stories about their cases.
At the meeting, ask about any professional accreditation or awards they have received or which legal groups they belong to. Also, find out if they are an associate or a partner at the firm.
19. Do you have any professional accreditation or awards, and which legal groups do you belong to? Also, are you an associate or a partner at the firm?
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Each case is unique and the laws discussed may not apply to your specific situation. Please consult a qualified lawyer in your area for personalized guidance. The information in this blog is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with a professional.