Price is one factor that goes into people’s decision making about their lawyers. While there are clearly limitations based on what you can afford to spend, you should not be guided so much by the cost of the lawyer. There are some very excellent lawyers who come at a low price. There are some lawyers who charge more but may not be as skilled in a particular area. There is an old saying that goes “You can pay $500 for $5 of advice from an old lawyer, or $5 for $500 of advice from a young lawyer.
Legal fees are not standardized. Lawyers set their own prices, largely based on what they believe their services are worth. At our office, we try to keep prices reasonable because we do not believe anyone should have to go broke defending themselves from a criminal charge. Our fees are mostly determined by the amount of work we have to do in a particular case and what it will cost in terms of labour, time, and office resources to do that work. It’s not a scientific formula, but it’s close.
It’s a mistake to think that the most expensive lawyer is the best. This might sometimes be true, but it is equally as often false. Price should only inform your decision about what lawyer to hire insofar as it relates to what you can afford. Beyond that, you should not draw conclusions based on dollars alone.
A short while ago, I dealt with a client who had a particularly complex case. Throughout the different steps involved in the case, this client insinuated to me repeatedly that they might be better off with an older lawyer. Honestly, I was offended. I was working hard on the case, and it was well within my wheelhouse to deal with the issues that arose. There have been countless other times that clients and potential clients have suggested that I am too young to handle their cases.
Age and experience are two different things. Personally, I believe that my track record of successes in Immediate Roadside Prohibition and DUI Impaired Driving cases speaks far more about my ability to handle complex cases than my age does. Experience comes from doing something, learning what is necessary, and doing it over and over again. There are many older lawyers who do not have the degree of experience I do in IRPs, just as I do not have the experience they do in other types of cases.
When you are choosing a lawyer, you should look for someone who is experienced in the area you need. Look for a proven record of success, and a reputation for winning or arguing new angles and avenues of defence. Do not be afraid to ask potential lawyers questions about the area of law you are dealing with to see how they answer. A lawyer with the right amount of experience for you will be able to answer you questions clearly and succinctly.
At the end of the day, you want to be comfortable with the lawyer you have. When you speak with them on the phone or in their office initially, you want someone you feel you can trust. You want someone who puts your mind at ease and makes you feel as though your case is something they can handle. This isn’t to say you should want to be your lawyer’s friend. Trust me, you do not want to have your friend be your lawyer or your lawyer be your friend. But your lawyer should make you feel comfortable with your decision to hire them.
Your lawyer is going to be the person who will be arguing your case in court, and making sure your version of events is properly heard. You need to be able to trust that they will do that for you. There is a lot to be said for someone who just makes you feel comfortable with the process. Trust your brain and trust your gut and you will find the right lawyer for your criminal case.