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Top 10 Tips For Finding An Attorney To Represent You In Court

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Whether you have been accused of a crime, sued, or want to sue someone, you will need to find an attorney to represent you in court. Although you technically can represent yourself, a famous quote states that "a man who represents himself has a fool for a client." Read on for the top 10 tips for finding an attorney to represent you in court.

  1. "If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you": Everyone is familiar with this promise, as it is one of the Miranda Rights that police must read you upon arrest: A public defender or a court-paid private attorney will represent you.  But it's not a blanket offer, applying to felony crimes, misdemeanors that could lead to jail time, juvenile delinquency cases and a defendant's first appeal from a conviction.  
  2. You do not have the right to a public defender if someone sues you privately: Unlike criminal cases, there is no obligation on the part of the court or the state to provide you with a lawyer if someone sues you. It is still a good idea to hire one, since you could face potentially serious monetary loss if you lose a private lawsuit
  3. You can contact the state or local bar association for Referrals: Bar associations are professional associations of attorneys. If you contact them, they can likely provide you with a list of members in the area where you live.
  4. Legal Aid may be able to help you if you can't afford a lawyer: Legal Aid organizations exist in most cities and states throughout the US. If you are having a landlord-tenant dispute, immigration problems and family law issues especially, you may be able to get help from a legal aid clinic for free or at a very low cost.
  5. Law school clinics may also provide help for those who can't pay lawyers bills: Most law schools have clinics where aspiring law students can work with clients to hone their practicing skills. The students are supervised by a licensed attorney. If you cannot afford to hire a professional lawyer, try contacting a law school clinic to see if they would be interested in representing you.
  6. Some lawyers will work on a contingency fee basis: If you are suing someone for personal injury, many lawyers will work for a percentage of the profits on the lawsuit. While this cost can be high - a third of whatever you recover - you do not pay unless you win.
  7. Find out what kind of law your attorney specializes in: Before you hire a lawyer, you need to find out what his specialty is. Not all lawyers do all types of legal work. Criminal attorneys are different from corporate lawyers or tax lawyers. You want a lawyer who specializes in whatever type of legal work that you need done.
  8. Find out which courts the lawyer has experience in: Cases can be brought in state court or in federal court depending on the situation. Likewise, criminal cases are brought in criminal court while private lawsuits are brought in civil court and family lawsuits in family court. Other special courts exist as well, such as tax courts and bankruptcy courts. You want a lawyer who is experienced within the court system that your case is being tried in.
  9. Ask for referrals: Friends or family members may be able to refer you to an attorney they have worked with in the past. You may be better off hiring someone based on a personal referral - although remember, past results are not necessarily indicative of what will happen to you, since every case is slightly different.
  10. Ask about involvement in the profession: You want a lawyer who is passionate about what he does. Membership in professional organizations, a history of speaking at seminars or a bevy of articles published in a law journal suggest that your attorney is an expert in his field.

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