At What Point Should You Retain an Attorney?
Interviewer: When do you typically tend to have people calling you to retain you? Is it before the arraignment? Is it later on in the process?
Most Individuals Retain an Attorney Prior to the Arraignment
Mike Munoz: The majority of our clients find us before an arraignment. Usually what happens is people get arrested, they wait a day or two or maybe even the same day before they call us. They call us and they explain to us what happened. We give them a free consultation, they come in the office.
It Is Advisable to Meet with the Attorney; Most Attorneys Will Offer a Free Initial Consultation
We call it a consultation but the truth is I call it an education. What I mean is when they come into my office, instead of talking at people, I talk to them. I find out about the facts of their case for their perspective. Then I explain to them what they’re looking at in terms of a potential consequence under the law.
I educate them on the possible consequences, the state of the law, and then also possible defenses we could have without any promises being made. After the consultation, the client, a potential client decides whether or not they want to retain us or not.
What Qualities Should You Look For in an Attorney and What Should You Look out for?
Interviewer: What do you think causes people to have confusion on who they should hire, and who is in fact a good attorney versus not a good one? How can you help guide people so they know what to look for? Most people aren’t in this situation more than, hopefully, once in their life, and I’m sure they’re confused.
Sales Pitch: Avoid Retaining an Attorney That Using Pressure Tactics
Mike Munoz: I think it’s hard for the potential client because people really want to find somebody they can trust. Unfortunately, there are a lot of attorneys who rely more on a sales pitch then they do of listening to their clients, rather than listening to them and actually giving them useful information. Many lawyers kind of do the hard sell, the sales pitch, and then the “sign now,” that pressure. Those are pressure tactics.
Does the Attorney Focus His or Her Practice in the Area of Law You Need?
I think when looking for an attorney, people should obviously look for an attorney that is focused in the area of law that they need. If you’re looking to hire somebody for a DUI, you probably shouldn’t go to a lawyer that advertises bankruptcy only. So you want to find someone who’s focused in that area of law.
Experience Is an Important Attribute
The next thing is to look at their qualifications and don’t be scared to ask them their qualifications. I welcome anybody asking me what my background and experience is when people are in my office. Nobody should hide from that, ever. If you have the experience you should have no problem with anybody ever asking you about it.
Clients should also look for the “comfort-ability” factor. When you go visit them, does the attorney even offer an in-person consultation? Some attorneys won’t and instead they’ll want to do everything over the phone because they just want to do the hard pressure sales pitch.
Are You Comfortable with the Attorney and Does He or She Have Good Listening Skills?
When you do the consultation over the phone, do they offer a free consultation in the office? If they do, a person should look for, “Is the person listening to me? Is he giving me time? Is he rushing me out the door or not?” Those are all things to take into consideration. “Does he seem like he cares?” I call that the trust factor. They should really feel like they trust you.
Ask in Advance What the Attorney’s Fees Will Be
From there, you have to ask questions. “What are your qualifications? Have you done these cases before?” Ask the attorney questions about the law and from the answers, do they seem knowledgeable?
Then always the last thing is it is a financial transaction. They need to find out what the attorney’s fees are, and make sure that the attorney gives them specific details on how their fee structure is. The client should obviously understand that completely before they sign up.
Does Talking to Too Many Attorneys Create Problems?
Interviewer: Even with all this, what do you find that confuses people in the process of looking who to hire as an attorney? What’s not being done right out there that’s causing confusion in your opinion?
Mike Munoz: I think what confuses people, is they’ll talk to multiple attorneys and they’ll get different information with the same questions. When they’re doing consultations with clients over the phone or in person, some attorneys don’t feel comfortable giving that much information out to a client. I think because of that, it causes confusion.
Take the Advice about Your Criminal Case from Friends with a Grain of Salt
This is because when a potential client is looking, one of the first things they do is talk to their friends and family. Some of the worst legal advice will come from friends and families who are not attorneys. So they take that information and then before you know it, they think it’s true and then they talk to one lawyer.
Maybe this lawyer doesn’t dispel it or maybe the lawyer gives bad information and so what happens is that they might get differing information from multiple lawyers. The key is they really need to come up with some clear questions and make sure those questions are answered.
Looking at the Attorney’s Awards or Certifications: Some Are Awarded for a Fee and Are Not Based on Merit
Interviewer: Are there certain certifications that would tell clients, “Oh this guy’s good, he’s the one to hire.” What do you think of those super-lawyers, national trial lawyers, or other designations?
Mike Munoz: Some of those awards are fine but I also think they are dangerous. Right now, there is a big one that is called, “Pay-to-play awards.” If people are really big about those rewards, they should research whether or not the attorney was actually awarded it based on their merit, or if they actually paid for the award. There is a big industry where they’re asking attorneys just to pay for these awards and they’ll get some stamp on their website. One of the things that my office tries not to do is we try not to participate in any award that I have to pay for.