How to Look for a Lawyer if You Have Been Arrested
Somebody called my office the other day. They just got out of jail the night before. They kept mentioning how they had “no idea what I’m supposed to do,” that they “have never been in this situation before,” and that they “don’t know anything about how this is supposed to work.” They said these things over and over again, and probably about 75% of the time that they were speaking they were apologizing for being unsure about what to do.
That’s an extreme example, but I get this kind of call a lot. Lots of people have never been arrested before and have zero experience with the criminal justice system. They’re doing the right thing by calling an attorney, but they are in such a panic and so out of their element that they just don’t know where to begin when I pick up the phone. I think some of them just type “attorney” into Google, start calling whatever numbers pop up, and then they panic and apologize over the phone until they eventually (hopefully) calm down enough to have a helpful conversation.
So I figured I’d write something for people who are looking for a lawyer but don’t really know how to find one or what they are supposed to do once they have done a Google search. This is geared toward people who have never been in this situation before, but I think that all of this advice applies to anyone who has a pending criminal case.
Here’s five things you should keep in mind:
1. Narrow your search by Geography
Where you have court might be the number one thing to consider when you are beginning your search for a lawyer. Take a look at your paperwork from the jail (don’t throw it away!) and find what city and county you have to go to. Most lawyers primarily practice near their office. You want an attorney who is familiar with the local practices and procedures where you’re going to court, as well as who the local judges and prosecutors are. South Carolina law is going to be the same statewide, but some things will be different depending on which court you’re going to, like the time it takes your case to go to trial, whether you have to go to your first court date or if you can stay home and let your attorney go for you, or the opportunities that might be available for getting your case dismissed.
If money is a concern, chances are you’ll find attorneys with more competitive fees in the county where you have court as well. If it costs your attorney time and money to travel an hour or two away to a courthouse outside of where they commonly practice, they will probably factor that into their fee.
So when you’re typing things into Google, don’t just type “attorney.” Put the name of the county or the city in there to help narrow down your results. Have Google Maps open too so you can see how close attorneys are to where you’ll be going to court.
2. Narrow your search by practice area
Different lawyers do different things. In smaller towns, you’re more likely to find “General Practitioners” – lawyers who do a little bit of everything. In larger cities, lawyers are more likely to focus on practicing one type of law – whether that’s family law, wills and estates, or criminal defense.
Spartanburg is the fifth-largest metropolitan area in South Carolina by population, and next is Greenville, which is the largest. There are certainly some attorneys in town who do more than one thing or a little bit of everything, but most of us tend to narrow down to one practice area.
Do some research. Look for criminal-defense attorneys in the area where you have court and make a list. Look at their webpages and see what they have to say before you call. Criminal-defense is a very unique and difficult type of law to practice. If you are charged with a crime and your freedom is on the line, you want someone who has spent some time in a criminal courtroom before.
3. Get all your paperwork in front of you before you pick up the phone
If you call my office for a free consultation, I am going to ask you several questions about where you have court, when you have court, what you are charged with, and what happened. You should have all your paperwork laid out in front of you before you call so that you can find this information quickly and easily.
4. Find someone you’re comfortable with – book multiple consultations if necessary
There are plenty of good lawyers out there, but not everyone is a perfect fit for every possible client. You might have a great feeling about the first lawyer you talk to, and if so, that’s great. But if you see red flags or hear alarm bells, trust your instincts. It’s perfectly OK to have consultations with multiple lawyers. You want to make sure that the attorney you’re hiring is someone who is accessible, who you trust, and who understands your needs and concerns.
5. Take a deep breath
The fact that you are taking this seriously and searching for a lawyer to represent you puts you ahead of the curve. I’m sure you have plenty that you’re anxious and worried about now. Take a moment and clear your head as best as you can (I know it’s easier said than done).
If you’d like to reach out to me for a free consultation about your case, it’s as easy as clicking “Contact” at the top of this page, or calling (864) 398-4656.