3 Tips on Locating a Reputable Attorney

It never ceases to amaze me how many criminal cases in Denver go to a plea bargain without an attorney. In the end usually I hear from a defendant just how unhappy they are with the process and the disposition of the case. Of course hiring an attorney was not an option because of the cost associated with hiring an attorney or lawyer, and usually I hear about their previous experience which wasn’t a positive one. I think we have all hired an attorney or legal professional that just didn’t seem to give the services they charged for, and that is exactly why I am writing this post.

Solid legal counsel is going to cost money; there is no way around that. Having excellent representation is worth more than handling negotiations with a District Attorney yourself; I have seen this first hand, over and over again. So with that being said, how do you locate that Denver attorney or Denver lawyer that is going to both fit your budget and give you the representation that you deserve?   First, start off with the consultation. It seems to me that most people will attend one consultation and then either hire that lawyer or not hire a lawyer at all.

What I have found is that attending three or maybe even four consultations is the best way to make a decision as to whether or not you will need an attorney. I have never recommended that someone not hire an attorney, but there are those rare cases where just handling the case yourself probably makes better sense. For example a simple traffic violation versus a criminal charge like domestic violence, in the case of the traffic violation, this might be a case where I would negotiate with the Denver District Attorney myself.

I know you are saying, “All this goes without saying, doesn’t it?” Yes it does, but I want to make certain that I am clear. For serious charges, it is rare that a defendant does not benefit from consulting with a Denver Criminal Defense Attorney. Your Denver Criminal Defense Lawyer should be able to identify important pretrial issues and explain it to you in a way that you are never out of the loop. If you feel that your attorney is proceeding without explaining the entire process to you, then it is probably time for you to find a different attorney or stop the process and make certain you are completely informed.

This is why the consultation process was so important to begin with. It is never okay for you to just go with an attorney because you feel like they know what they are doing; make absolute certain that you know their experience is going to be a benefit to you. Seems to make sense while you read this, but how many times have you allowed an attorney in Denver to file a motion on your behalf without reading the motion? When you read the motion did you understand it?

If you did not understand the motion, did you tell the attorney to go ahead with the motion? Make sure you ask the simple questions and understand the ramifications of your case entirely, this will prevent future disappointment. It seems that whenever I hear a defendant complaining about their attorney or lawyer, they explain that the attorney never explained the sentence to them all the way or, “I never agreed to serve four years probation but that is what I received.” Had they taken the time to understand their case and just throw it in the hands of their attorney they probably would have known about their sentence and they would not be surprised with the outcome.  

Be wary of entering into a retainer agreement which calls for additional payments if the case will go to trial, make certain that you nail the fees down in the beginning. I have had many experiences where attorneys have gone crazy with the retainer and it was spent in a matter of weeks. I am not suggesting that you constantly negotiate with your attorney about their fees; a good attorney is going to be expensive. I am suggesting that you not pay more than you have to. Find out what the retainer is going to cover and if that retainer is expected to take your case through trial.

It is not unusual for appellate lawyers to hear clients recite that they entered into guilty pleas after they were unable to come up with necessary funds to pay their lawyers to proceed with a trial. It is your responsibility to find out how much your case is going to cost. I can already hear your attorney giving you the most common, “Well, it really depends on whether or not we go to trial, if we go to trial would there be an appeal?” When I can’t seem to get a straight answer from the attorney I move on to the next, it is not unreasonable to hear an estimate of what it will cost.

Of course a good attorney will inform you that they are uncertain because they do not want to be held accountable should your case cost more than originally anticipated which is completely reasonable. All we are looking for here is an estimate so that we can be prepared to go to trial if we need to.   In my experience, finding a good criminal defense lawyer in Denver can be difficult, here are some suggestions of resources I have found useful:  

1.)           Referrals – If you were arrested and incarcerated, then obviously what better crowd to ask for referrals. It seems inmates always know which criminal defense attorneys are worthwhile and which are not. This is not the absolute best source for referrals, but I do find more value here than asking an attorney for a referral. I don’t want to be referred to an attorney just because they played golf with the attorney I asked for the referral from. However, if you do already work with an attorney or lawyer in Denver  that you trust, than this would absolutely be an excellent place to start for a solid referral.  

2.)           Courtroom Observation – Before you discount this one, stop and think. Doesn’t it make sense that you would watch an attorney in the courtroom and see how they handle themselves? I have found an excellent attorney by just going to court and watching several cases.  

3.)           Directories – There are several competent law directories with excellent attorneys for all different sectors of law practice. If you are going to utilize a directory to locate your attorney then it is imperative that you interview a couple of different attorneys so that you are making an informed decision. Seems to make sense right? Again, I have heard over and over again, “We went with the first attorney we met with, he/she seemed capable”. Don’t get lazy, talk with a couple of different attorneys and make certain that you are happy with your decision don’t get lazy, talk with a couple of different attorneys and make certain that you are happy with your decision.

No matter what happens you will need to deal with the consequences of the case. This is not the end all guide to hiring your Denver attorney, but a summary of some important things to consider when hiring an attorney. No matter what it is important to try and be as objective as you can and not get swallowed up with the emotions that are usually tied to a criminal case. Good advice, but usually difficult to follow. This article should not be considered legal advice and is simply a resource for those navigating their way through the many Denver Attorneys that are available.  

5 Critical Mistakes Often Made When Hiring an Attorney & How to Avoid Those Mistakes

Hiring an Attorney with Little Experience

1. People often hire an attorney that has little or no experience in the area of practice in which they seek representation. A person that has used an attorney to handle one area of the law may not want to have that same lawyer handle another area of the law. Even if the past representation was excellent, that attorney may be the wrong choice for a different facet of the law. The practice of law has become increasingly specialized and there are fewer and fewer general practitioners who can effectively handle multiple practice areas. If you choose an attorney who concentrates in your particular area that you need help in, you stand a much greater chance of success. You can increase your chances of success even further if you find an attorney who not only concentrates in your particular area, but also has had a lengthy track record of experience in the particular area. There is no substitute for experience. It can take 3-5 years to become proficient in an area of practice if the attorney engages in that area consistently. For an attorney who does only one or two cases like yours per year, he likely will never become proficient in that area.

Choosing an Attorney Solely On Price

2. People sometimes choose an attorney solely on price. Don’t let price be the determining factor when hiring an attorney. It should be one of many factors, but never the only factor. This price shopping mentality could be a very critical mistake depending upon the area of law. A quality attorney can often wind up saving a client a substantial amount of money by knowing how to properly handle a case. Saving a little money in the initial hiring process can sometimes lead to bigger losses in the long run. The old adage that you get what you pay for is often true.

Now that is not to say that a less expensive attorney is always inferior or that a less expensive attorney will provide sub par representation. However, I would never hire the $99.00 attorney just because he is the cheapest. That lawyer may be less experienced. That lawyer may be able to charge less because he does less. He may not be willing to respond to your questions or attend to the details required to make your case go smoothly. Beware of lawyers who advertise a very low introductory fee and then add on for additional services that other lawyers may include in their flat fee agreements. I would also not hire an attorney who was charging an exorbitant amount as well. We live in a capitalistic society and some attorneys charge the moon and the stars for their services. The most expensive attorney is not necessarily the best. I would focus on hiring quality representation that leads to positive results. A respected attorney would deliver that benefit for a reasonable fee and would provide a written contract describing his services in an understandable form contract.

Failing To Ask Critical Questions

3. People don’t ask critical questions at the hiring stage as to the attorney’s ability, experience, knowledge and rate of success. Be prepared to ask direct questions of the prospective attorney. After all, you are the consumer and you should have a clear picture of the attorney that you are hiring. The attorney should be asked how many cases of this nature does he handle and what percentage of his practice involves this area? Will he personally oversee the case or just delegate it to an associate or legal assistant? Will he be available for ongoing questions either in person or on the telephone? How many years has the attorney been engaged in the particular area and what is his success rate? Can he provide any names of satisfied clients? Does the attorney take ongoing legal education training in the particular area? Is he a member of any local, state or national organizations that relate to the particular area? What is his reputation like among his peers? Would he be able to provide any references? Does he have any published works on the subject or has he prepared any helpful educational material on the subject that you can review? These are just some of the questions that should be asked at the initial interview stage. Your legal situation is of great importance in your life. Take the time to ask the prospective attorney some uncomfortable questions. The answers will be very telling. You will know within minutes whether or not you are meeting with a qualified attorney who is right for you.

Don’t Overpay In Return For Inferior Service

4. Overpaying for inferior service. Lawyers are in the service business. If they are not providing excellent client services then they are not worth hiring. The client should have great access to the attorney and to their personal file information. Some attorneys charge a high premium yet provide very poor service. Some attorneys restrict access by limiting the times, days and hours that file information can be obtained. Make sure that you will be treated with respect at all times. And that means having your questions answered or telephone calls returned within a reasonable period of time. Make sure that the attorney or law firm that you hire values you as a client and that you are not perceived as just another number. Will you receive friendly treatment from the attorney and the staff? These are factors that you should greatly consider when choosing an attorney. When you meet with an attorney for the first time at his office, evaluate the service factor of both the attorney and the staff. Is this a place that you would feel comfortable dealing with for weeks or months? What does your gut say with regard to the services being provided?

Not Checking the Attorney’s Status and References

5. Not checking the attorney’s status with the licensing board and not checking with any references if they were provided is the final critical mistake to avoid. Wouldn’t you like to know if the attorney that you are interested in hiring is listed in good standing? What if there were outstanding complaints against that attorney for neglect or worse? These are issues that would certainly affect your hiring decision if you were aware of them. Also, did you check with any of the references that were provided? Did you call every one of the names provided to see if they would highly recommend the attorney? Was their case even remotely similar or in the same area of law as yours? Have them point out at least one weakness in the attorney’s representation or at least one area that could use improvement. A little effort at the outset of your case by way of research can make a world of difference in your choice of attorneys.

Why You Need a Durable Power of Attorney Now!

Planning for unfortunate events such as serious illness or injury is rarely on anyone’s list of favorite pastimes. Sometimes, though, enduring the small discomfort that may accompany preparing for the unexpected will avoid untold anguish on the part of your family and friends. This is certainly the case with the Durable Power of Attorney, an often simple document that becomes so very important if sickness or injury renders you unable to take care of your own affairs.

Power of Attorney Defined

A Power of Attorney is a document in which you (as the “Principal”) allow someone else (the “Agent” or “Attorney-in-fact”) to act legally on your behalf. The Power of Attorney may be limited to very specific actions that the Agent is authorized to take on your behalf. On the other hand it may give the Agent very broad powers. In either event, the Agent you appoint in the Power of Attorney should be someone that you trust without reservation. That could be a family member, an advisor, a trustworthy friend or a bank or similar institution.

The “Durable” Power of Attorney

The significance of having a “Durable” Power of Attorney is best understood if you know what can happen with the plain old garden variety of Power of Attorney.

If you sign a Power of Attorney that is not “durable,” the document remains effective only while you are alive and competent to handle your own affairs. If you become incompetent or die, the Power of Attorney is automatically revoked by law and your Agent is no longer able to act on your behalf. This prevents a Power of Attorney from becoming irrevocable inadvertently, and, until recent times, it was the only way a Power of Attorney could be prepared.

The non-durable Power of Attorney has limited usefulness for family and estate planning purposes, though, because the Power of Attorney is often most needed when you have become incapacitated! That is when you really need someone else that is able to make legal decisions or take other actions on your behalf.

All fifty states now permit the use of a “durable” Power of Attorney that is not revoked simply because the Principal becomes incapacitated or mentally incompetent. This makes the Durable Power of Attorney a far more reliable document, particularly for family and estate planning purposes, since you may now authorize your Agent to act on your behalf even after illness, injury or other cause has rendered you unable to manage your own affairs. Even with a Durable Power of Attorney, however, the Principal’s death causes an immediate revocation of the document and termination of the powers that are given to the Agent.

A Matter of Convenience

The Durable Power of Attorney is often used as a matter of convenience.

Suppose, for example, you have your home listed for sale. You have also planned a long awaited trip to visit Aunt Trixie in Deadwood, South Dakota, and you are concerned that an interested buyer may come along while you are on the road. A Durable Power of Attorney would be handy here to appoint someone you trust to act in your absence to negotiate the sale and sign any documents that are needed to make the deal binding.

The Durable Power of Attorney could be prepared so that it is effective only until the date you plan to return from your trip, and it might describe specific terms that your Agent must include in the sale, such as the minimum sale price that is acceptable to you.

A Matter of Protecting Loved Ones

What happens if, from illness, injury or another cause, you become physically or mentally incapacitated to the point that you are no longer able to handle your own legal affairs?

Let’s suppose again that while you are incapacitated it becomes necessary to mortgage your home to pay your medical bills. Who will sign the mortgage? Even if your home is jointly owned with your spouse, he cannot obtain a mortgage without your signature.

In those circumstances it would be necessary to request the local probate court to appoint a guardian for you that has the power to handle your legal affairs. In many states, this type of guardian is referred to as a “conservator”. Included in the conservator’s powers might be the power to borrow money and sign a mortgage on your behalf making it possible to obtain the funds needed to pay the medical bills.

However, you may have heard that it is advantageous to avoid probate whenever possible, particularly if there is a good alternative available. The delay and expense associated with probate proceedings and the fact that they are conducted in the probate court, a public forum, make that good advice in most circumstances. And there is a better alternative than probate, but it requires you to act before the incapacity arises – you need to sign a Durable Power of Attorney.

When used in this estate planning context, the Durable Power of Attorney is generally worded very broadly to give your Agent the power to step into your legal shoes in almost any circumstance. In effect, you tell your Agent “You can do anything I can do.”

Now, if you have prepared the Durable Power of Attorney and then become incapacitated, no one has to go through a probate proceeding to appoint a guardian or conservator to act for you – you have already given your Agent the power to do so. As you can see, the Durable Power of Attorney can save precious time and expense in critical situations and avoid having your personal affairs become the subject of a public proceeding.

Appointing a Successor Agent

It is often a good idea to appoint one or more successor Agents. The Agent you appoint in your Durable Power of Attorney may die or for some other reason become unable or unwilling to act as your Agent. In that case, you may be left without someone to act for you when you most need that assistance.

Appointing successors to your first choice of Agent helps insure that someone is always available to handle your affairs. Of course, each successor that you appoint should be someone that has your complete trust.

Revoking a Power of Attorney

As long as you are competent, you have the power to revoke your Durable Power of Attorney. To do so, send written notice to your Agent notifying him or her that the document has been revoked. Once the Agent has notice of your revocation, the Agent may take no further action under the Durable Power of Attorney. However, your revocation will not undo any permissible actions that the Agent has taken prior to being notified that the Power of Attorney has been terminated.

You must also notify third parties with whom your Agent has been dealing that the Durable Power of Attorney has been revoked. For example, if the Agent has been dealing with a stockbroker, you must notify the stockbroker as soon as possible. Do this in writing, as well, and do it immediately. Third parties who do not receive notice of the revocation are entitled to, and probably will, continue to rely on the Durable Power of Attorney.

Making the Durable Power of Attorney Effective upon Incapacity.

It is possible to have a Durable Power of Attorney that only becomes effective if and when you become incapacitated. This document is referred as a “springing” Durable Power of Attorney because it “springs to life” on the occurrence of a future event – your incapacity. The document should include a detailed definition of “disability” to make clear the circumstances in which your Agent may act on your behalf.

Knowing that your Agent is unable to exercise his or her powers until you are actually unable to do so yourself may make using the Durable Power of Attorney more comfortable for you. Unfortunately, even with a good definition of incapacity in the springing Durable Power of Attorney, your Agent may find that third parties are simply not willing to make the judgment that you are indeed disabled. If they are wrong, they may be held liable to you for any damages that you sustain as a result of the error in judgment. You may therefore find the springing document cannot be relied upon in all circumstances.

Don’t Procrastinate!

Estate planning is easy to put off. But don’t! Advance planning, such as executing a Durable Power of Attorney, may make a horrible circumstance for you and your family just a bit more bearable.