TIPS FOR HIRING A PITTSBURGH CRIMINAL ATTORNEY & PITTSBURGH DUI ATTORNEY
If you’re facing criminal or DUI charges in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, you may not know where to turn for help. You know you need to hire a Pittsburgh Criminal Attorney or Pittsburgh DUI Attorney to represent you, but may have concerns about what to ask and who to trust. This article is designed to provide some insight on things you should consider before hiring a local criminal defense attorney to represent you.
Does the Attorney have experience handling similar cases in the county where I am charged?
A critically important factor in the decision on hiring a criminal defense attorney is making sure that the attorney you choose has the right experience to handle your case. You should inquire with any attorney about whether or not they’ve handled cases that are similar to yours in the county where you are charged with a crime. The question you should be asking isn’t “How long have you been practicing law?” but “Do you have experience handling this type of case in the county where I’m charged?”
However, don’t assume automatically that you need to hire a local county attorney to handle your case. Many Pittsburgh based attorneys have significant experience representing clients charged with crimes in other counties. Specifically, the Zuckerman Law Firm has represented clients all over Western Pennsylvania, including Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Cambria, Fayette, Green, Indiana, Mercer, Washington and Westmoreland Counties.
What’s your first impression? How comfortable are you in dealing with the attorney?
Every day, we make decisions about other people based upon first impressions and our degree of comfort in dealing with others. Hiring an attorney should be no different. Don’t abandon your intuition. If you have consulted with and feel comfortable with a particular Pittsburgh criminal attorney, then you should trust your gut feeling about the lawyer. Likewise, if a particular attorney rubbed you the wrong way, then trust that feeling as well.
Be prepared to answer difficult questions in a private location where nobody else can overhear your conversation.
In discussing your case with a Pittsburgh criminal defense attorney, you should be prepared to answer difficult and uncomfortable questions about your case in a location where nobody else can overhear your end of the conversation. Although you may want friends, spouses or family members to overhear the conversation, ensuring that your conversation is not overheard by others will help protect the attorney-client privilege.
Check online reviews but don’t rely exclusively upon them.
Checking online reviews can be a helpful tool in making a decision about what attorney to hire. You may be able to read reviews about the attorney you’re looking to hire on Google, Avvo, Facebook, Super Lawyers, and related websites.
However, you should be cautious about your reliance upon online reviews for a few reasons. First, while there is no direct evidence that this is occurring in the Pittsburgh market, there are 3rd party marketing companies that will write fake positive and negative reviews for pay. Second, you should bear in mind that it is incredibly difficult to get anyone to write a review about a criminal defense practice, as most people don’t want their names associated on the internet with a criminal defense lawyer for obvious reasons. Additionally, many of the negative reviews out there are from disgruntled, chronically dissatisfied individuals whose temperament and expectations are not aligned with reality.
At the Zuckerman Law Firm, we value our word of mouth referrals and positive online presence. We manage our own sites and do not contract with 3rd party online marketing companies. We take pride in the legitimate, positive reviews that our firm has received from clients throughout Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania.
Be very skeptical of promises or guarantees regarding the outcome of your case.
Unfortunately, there are lawyers in the area who will brag or make promises or guarantees about the outcome of your case to earn your business. You should be skeptical of any lawyer who promises you an outcome for several reasons. First, it’s arguably a violation of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct as a false or misleading communication about the lawyer or the lawyer’s services.
Secondly, when it comes to the criminal justice system, there are no guarantees regarding the outcome of any case. Every case is different, and there are a wide variety of factors that go into a possible case resolution, such as: the individual facts of the case, the interests of the involved parties, prosecutorial discretion, the individual’s prior criminal record, the assigned judge’s tendencies, etc.
However, it is 100% appropriate for an attorney to set forth goals or predictions regarding the potential outcome of your case based upon the attorney’s past experience, so long as the lawyer makes clear that there are no promises or guarantees regarding the outcome.
Don’t overvalue relationships with the District Attorney’s Office, Judge or arresting Police Officer.
One of the questions you may have is how well the criminal defense attorney knows the assigned DA, Judge or arresting police officer on your case. It is a fair question to ask, but you should be skeptical if the attorney suggests that he can get you a favorable outcome because he or she knows someone involved with the case.
For example, it is appropriate for an attorney to state that he or she has practiced in front of all of the judges or dealt with all of the Assistant DAs assigned to Pittsburgh Municipal Court, and is therefore comfortable litigating cases in that court. However, if an attorney promises to get you off the hook because he knows the judge or DA, this is an unethical promise that should cause you to think twice about hiring them.
Who will be handling my case?
When you go to the dentist for a cleaning and checkup, does the dentist fully clean your teeth? Typically not. A well-trained dental hygienist discusses with you any issues you’re having with your teeth, conducts x-rays, cleans your teeth and polishes them. Thereafter, the dentist will come to examine your teeth and do some minor touch up work before discharging you.
Similarly, there is nothing wrong with delegating a case assignment to an associate or subordinate attorney if the legal matter falls within their experience level and their work is supervised by a partner. The Zuckerman Law Firm typically honors requests for Managing Attorney Dave Zuckerman to personally handle cases. However, with cases that are delegated to an associate, Attorney Zuckerman coordinates with the associate to discuss goals and strategies, and still remains accessible to discuss the case directly with clients.
However, not all firms operate in such a manner. At some firms, the partner will delegate your case and never speak with you again. Additionally, some firms will contract with 3rd party attorneys who do not work for the firm, are not generally familiar with the case, and will often be hired on a last-minute basis.
If you are hiring an attorney or law firm, you should make sure that you have the ability to contact both the partner and associate as needed.
Who will be answering my phone calls?
This is a legitimate question for you to ask any attorney or law firm in the area. Many criminal defense attorneys and law firms in the Pittsburgh area have their calls screened by paralegals or third-party answering services. This may leave clients frustrated by an inability to reach their attorney during critical times.
At the Zuckerman Law Firm, your phone calls are never screened by paralegals, secretaries or third-party answering services. As a client of ZLF, you will receive the direct work cell phone number and email addresses for our attorneys. When we’re able to talk, we will answer, or you’ll be able to leave messages on our personal voicemails.
Am I being charged for the whole case up front, or just the preliminary hearing?
Last year, a client retained the firm to handle a 1st-Degree Misdemeanor case, where there was a strong likelihood that the case could be resolved at the preliminary hearing. The client proceeded to ask why our firm’s rate was so much lower than other firms in the area. The reason - other firms were charging a “full case rate” for a matter that likely did not require the level of work needed to handle the matter at the higher court. The case resolved with a complete dismissal at the preliminary hearing, saving the client hundreds if not thousands on representation.
At the Zuckerman Law Firm, we typically quote flat-fee rates for the preliminary hearing up front, with a final fee due for any future court proceedings. This can work to the benefit of the client, as clients end up paying less for cases that resolve at the preliminary hearing phase of prosecution.
Can I afford to hire a private criminal attorney in Pittsburgh?
A patient is going to pay his dentist more for a root canal than a routine cleaning. The same principle applies for criminal defense. The cost associated with hiring a private criminal attorney in Pittsburgh often depends upon the severity of the charges, the client’s specific needs and the required amount of work involved in defending the case.
A person who wants a jury trial is almost always going to pay a higher rate than someone who wants a non-jury trial or plea. Similarly, a person charged with homicide or sexual assault is likely going to pay a higher fee than someone charged with a DUI or theft case. Likewise, you will have to pay more if an expert witness or private investigator is needed to help defend the case.
You should have a realistic assessment about your ability to pay legal fees. If you cannot afford to hire a private criminal attorney, you should contact the Public Defender’s Office in the county where you are charged to learn more about how to apply for court-appointed counsel.
SEE IF THE ZUCKERMAN LAW FIRM IS THE RIGHT CHOICE FOR YOU
If you are facing criminal, DUI or traffic charges in Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, contact the Zuckerman Law Firm today at 412-447-5580 for a free, confidential telephone consultation. Attorney Dave Zuckerman has 10 years of experience in the criminal justice system, as a former prosecutor, law clerk and as a private criminal defense attorney.