Many people who find themselves face to face with the U.S. justice system for the first time are at a loss about what they can do to maximize their odds of a favorable outcome (or to at least minimize the odds of an unfavorable outcome). Whether you are involved in a civil or criminal proceeding, keeping a level head and following a few simple rules can give you (and your lawyer) the edge needed to achieve a favorable settlement or ruling:
- Don’t wait to hire your lawyer – Each day or week that you wait to hire a lawyer is time that you might be arguing or representing yourself – and making a mistake. It is important to hire a legal professional who have expertise and can view the matter objectively. Also, time is often of the essence in a potential legal case. If you delay consulting with an attorney, not only has valuable time passed, but you also run the risk of missing crucial legal deadlines. A good lawyer will also tell you whether you can resolve the dispute without resorting to litigation. Finally, if you have been accused of a crime, you need to contact a lawyer right away.
- Find a lawyer that fits your needs – Choosing the right lawyer is first important step. Friends and associates may give you recommendations, but it is better to get a referral from the local bar association or another lawyer. Find out if you need a specialist. Many lawyers specialize in one particular type of law. Find out if a small or large firm is right for you. Larger firms may have more resources for complex cases, but small firms take on fewer cases and may devote more time to you. Before you hire a lawyer, have brief meetings with several lawyers. Get a sense of their experience and personality, and determine whether their legal style is a match for your approach.
- Follow your lawyer’s advice – You paid for good legal advice. Don’t waste it. If you follow your own “instincts” or that of your friends, then you are squandering your lawyer’s expertise, as well as your own money. If for some reason you don’t trust your lawyer’s advice then as a last resort, talk to another lawyer.
- Keep your lawyer informed – Your lawyer understands the law, but he or she only knows the facts that you – the client – are presenting. Make sure to tell your lawyer everything about your case, whether or not you think it is significant. Even minor details may be important for developing a legal strategy. Also make sure to update your lawyer if things change, so that he is not working from outdated information. Finally, make sure to tell your attorney unfavorable facts. That way he or she is prepared to deal with it before going into trial or settlement negotiations. It is not good if the other side surprises your lawyer with information you already knew! Bad facts are not uncommon, but they will not away simply because you hide them.
- Communicate your expectations – Your attorney needs to know what your expectations are. What is the best result you hope for? What is the worst you expect? Your lawyer needs to know what to aim for and what the minimum you’ll agree to. Also, communication is a two-way street. Make sure your lawyer explains to you all the possible outcomes. That way you know what “winning” actually means in concrete terms, and also what might happen if you don’t.
- Be open to settlement – About 97 percent of civil cases are settled before trial, or dismissed without a trial. That means one of two things almost always happens: both sides eventually agree to resolve the case on their own, or a judge decides that a case is not worthy of going to trial. In either situation, it is your advantage to listen to any offers the other side may make. In the first situation, you “win” when you agree to a good outcome earlier than later, saving both time and money. In the second situation, you “win” because taking an offer is a better result than having your case dismissed.
These simple rules can give you the edge you need to win your case. Take them to heart and give your attorney the assistance he or she needs to best serve you.
Written by Shannon Kraight for the law offices of Lakeman, Peagler, Hollett & Alsobrook, LLC. Each Birmingham DUI lawyer is committed to your case and a favorable outcome. A free consultation is just a click away.