Many accused persons encounter having to choose between spending their limited resources on bail or putting those resources towards the best lawyer they can afford.
We’ve posted a previous blog about the horrors of going with a public defender which is very relevant to this topic, but we want to delve a little deeper into the question of bail or a good lawyer.
The next logical question is: does a more expensive lawyer obtain better results than a cheap lawyer? Adam Smith’s invisible hand goes a long way to answering this question and then human nature plays a not-insignificant part as well.
How do lawyers charge for their services?
Invisible Hand: In other words, the free market’s “invisible hand” dictates the cost a lawyer can charge. A lawyer who charges more but has no clients cannot continue to be expensive or must find another line of work. An experienced lawyer who has a long track record of obtaining impressive results for his or her clients can charge more because their services are more sought after. When a criminal defense lawyer is able to charge more, that lawyer is able to spend the time necessary to leave no stone unturned when evaluating the evidence, interviewing the witnesses, hiring experts to prove the client innocent and investigating the skeletons that often inhabit the closets of the police officers and complaining witnesses.
On the other hand, a cheap lawyer must have two or three (or more) times the number of cases to earn a living. That makes it very difficult for that lawyer to be able to spend the time and expertise to get the best possible results for a client. That doesn’t mean that the more expensive lawyer doesn’t need to still advertise his or her services. Only a few years ago, when a person was accused of a crime, they often consulted with trusted friends or family members. However, the internet has changed everything. Now the accused almost always turn to the internet to research a prospective lawyer, review his or her background and experience and read the social proof: reviews.
How do I choose a criminal defense attorney?
It is inherent in the premise that being accused of a crime is one of the most traumatic things a person can endure in life. The devastating impact incarceration has on family, employment and life is self-evident. The stigma of a conviction is often lifelong.
As such, an accused needs a lawyer who has his back and is entrusted with their life. The lawyer needs the skills and experience in the court room to literally do battle with the prosecutor who has the resources of the state backing them. When the prosecutor knows they have a REAL fight on their hands the playing field for the accused changes dramatically.
Similarly, when the trial judge knows the lawyer is experienced, prepared and skilled in the courtroom, the accused has a much better chance at prevailing on pre-trial motions, discovery battles, jury selection and a whole slew of critical pre-trial and trial rulings which can easily alter to outcome of the trial.
The bottom line is that the stakes could not be higher, and it is almost always better to spend limited resources on a good lawyer rather than bail if one cannot afford both.
“Charts: Why You’re in Deep Trouble If You Can’t Afford a Lawyer” https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2013/05/public-defenders-gideon-supreme-court-charts/
“Nothing Is More Expensive Than A Cheap Lawyer” https://www.forbes.com/sites/amyanderson/2013/06/04/nothing-is-more-expensive-than-a-cheap-lawyer/#644dd85f7d10