Questions You Should Ask Your Lawyer Before You Pay Them
Who Will be Handling My Case?
Law firms, even those that practice strictly criminal law, are often composed of many attorneys, paralegals, intake specialists and secretaries. The person who initially talks to you and convinces you to hire the firm may seem very competent, calming and convincing. However, they may not be an attorney or if they are they may the senior lawyer or public face to the firm whose job it is to bring in new client and then hand them off to a less experienced associate. It’s important to ask so that you know who you will be dealing with. Do not hire a law firm until you talk face to face with your lawyer.
At the Law Office of Michael Morrison, you, your loved ones and your witnesses will only ever deal with me, Michael Morrison. I will meet with you, give you an honest evaluation, attend every court hearing, take every deposition and argue your case before the jury.
Are you a Board Certified Specialist?
Board certification recognizes attorneys’ special knowledge, skills and proficiency in various areas of law and professionalism and ethics in practice. Certification is the Florida Bar’s highest level of evaluation of the competency and experience of attorneys. In order to achieve Board Certification an attorney must practice law for a minimum of five years, demonstrate substantial involvement in the field of law for which certification is sought, pass a peer and judicial review of competence in the specialty field as well as character, ethics and professionalism in the practice of law, satisfy specific continuing legal education requirements and receive a passing grade on an arduous written examination. Attorneys who have achieved Board Certification may refer to themselves as experts or specialists in their certification area. Approximately only 7% of attorneys in the Florida Bar hold any form of board certification. Of the over 100,000 lawyers in the Florida Bar, there are only about 450 Board Certified Criminal Trial Attorneys.
I am one of them. I applied for Board Certification as soon as I had been practicing long enough. I obtained the requisite endorsements from colleagues, prosecutors and judges, tried the required twenty-five cases, kept up with the continuing legal educational classes and passed the written exam on the first try. I have earned the right to call myself an expert and I hope to use that expertise to help you.
How Many Cases Have You Taken to Trial?
This is a question that can lead to answers such as “a lot” or “numerous” or “too many to count” from some attorneys. While there are many stages to a criminal case, if no resolution can be reached a trial is ultimately where a case will conclude. It is the culmination of months or even years of work and draws upon all of the skill, training and experience of an attorney. Absent extraordinary circumstances you will only get one chance at trial and you will need a lawyer with actual trial experience. Given that, you want to know the number that your prospective lawyer has tried. Keep asking. Once you get a number you will want to know on how many of them they were Lead Counsel, meaning that they had primary case and strategy responsibility. On cases where they were not Lead Counsel, you will want to know what they did on the case; they may have just sat at counsel tables. You will also want to know how many of those trials were criminal trials and how many involved a jury. Also, you will want know how many times they have tried a case with charges similar to your case. If a lawyer will not give you a straight answer you many want to keep looking.
I have tried 61 cases before a jury as Lead and almost always sole counsel. I have sat as secondary counsel on dozens more. I have also tried approximately 75 non-jury trials which includes juvenile delinquency cases and probation revocation hearings. The charges in those cases included first-degree murder, capital sexual battery, dealing in stolen property, theft, DUI, driving with a suspended license, and aggravated battery to name a few. I will be happy to discuss with you my experience in each and every one of those trials to see if what I learned in them can help you.
How Many Kinds of Law Do You Practice?
There are many kinds of legal practice aside from criminal defense such as bankruptcy, dependency, personal injury, admiralty, insurance defense etc. No area of law is easy. Each requires study and experience to achieve a level of competent practice. Be suspicious of any lawyer who claims to practice in a very large number of disparate areas. While there are senior practitioners that through many years of practice have achieved competency across diverse disciplines, there are also those that are “a jack of all trades, but a master of none” and will take any case so long as there is a paying client involved. Criminal defense is unlike any other area of law in that a mishandled case could result in you, the client, being in jail for the rest of your life. You will want a lawyer whose main focus is criminal defense. My sole area of practice is criminal defense. It is what I dedicate all of my professional energies and focus to.