Criminal Law: Preparing To Meet With A Lawyer
One way to improve your chances of getting the best lawyer is to be prepared for your first meeting. Otherwise, it can be a big waste of time for both you and the criminal lawyer. First impressions mean a lot, and being unprepared may result in a criminal lawyer who does not want to represent you.
A Canadian criminal defence lawyer will want to know who you are and how you can be contacted. The lawyer may also ask for a personal and business background. He or she will clearly want to understand your situation. Thus, you need to write down anything that you consider relevant background information and have it available for the criminal lawyer. Also bring along any documents that you have, like: any documents you received from the court showing your charges and next court appearance date; your bail hearing documents; if your property was searched, any paperwork the police left; and any documents you think are important to the case for the criminal lawyer to review. If you can get a copy of the police report that will greatly assist the Canadian criminal lawyer.
Sometimes, a Canadian criminal lawyer may also try to facilitate the information gathering process by sending you a questionnaire to fill out in advance. If this happens, be sure to fill out the questionnaire and send it in to the criminal lawyer's office before the meeting. Also send along copies of any available documents that may be requested in the questionnaire.
Some criminal lawyers will ask you to describe the events which occurred. Some will ask you to describe what the police are alleging that you did, before going into the events as you saw them. Criminal actions frequently involve very different events from the perspectives of the police and the defendant.
Before you get too far into a meeting or conversation, the criminal lawyer is going to want to know about possible conflicts of interest. If the criminal lawyer or the lawyer's firm represents anyone on the other side of the criminal matter (for example, another person who has also been charged), he or she will have a conflict and in Canada, will usually not be able to represent you.
Questions for the Initial Meeting
Prepare a list of questions to take with you to your first meeting. You have to feel comfortable with your criminal lawyer. Remember that your Canadian lawyer is working for you. You want someone who is skilled, but you also have to get along with your lawyer. In theory, no question is too silly to ask. Keep in mind, though, that you do not want to scare a lawyer out of representing you. Questions you might ask a criminal lawyer would include:
- What would a criminal lawyer like to see in order to evaluate your case?
- What might your other options be?
- How many similar cases has the criminal lawyer handled?
- What percent of the criminal lawyer's practice is in the area of expertise that you need?
- What problems does the criminal lawyer foresee with your case?
- How would the criminal lawyer go about handling your situation? What is the process, including the different stages?
- How long will it take to bring the matter to a conclusion?
- Does the criminal lawyer ever plea bargain? All the time? Never? Either of those answers could be a problem. Some cases likely should be plea bargained. Other cases likely should go to trial.
- How would the criminal lawyer charge for his or her services?
- Will the criminal lawyer accept a payment agreement for the services that extends beyond the representation?
- Would the criminal lawyer handle the case personally or would it be passed on to some other criminal lawyer in the firm? If other lawyers or staff may do some of the work, could you meet them?
A great way to start your search for a local Canadian criminal lawyer is at Canadian-Lawyers.ca. Go to the 'Find a Lawyer' search box that appears on the right hand side of this screen to start your lawyer search. Type in criminal law or the name of the law firm, the city and the province that you are looking to hire a lawyer from, and click on the 'Search Now' button. This will generate a list of local Canadian criminal lawyers.