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Ask this ONE Questions Before You Hire a Defense Attorney

Ask this ONE Questions Before You Hire a Defense Attorney

“How many cases have you taken to ‘jury trial’ in the past five years?”

It is a simple question that a lot of lawyers may not be happy to answer. Some may avoid it, some may question you as to why that is important, and some may make some excuse for why they don’t actively take cases to trial.

However, don’t be fooled, this question is an excellent starting barometer in determining whether the lawyer you are interviewing/hiring is actually worth the money you are paying them. Of course, there will be lawyers who take cases to trial but don’t know what they are doing. However, over a five-year period, if they have had at least a couple trials per year, they should at least pass the test of this initial threshold question.

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Most people are surprised to learn that the majority of lawyers go years without taking a case to jury trial; that statistic in itself is troubling. In a five-year period, a lawyer who is a competent and zealous advocate for his/her clients is going to run into a few trials; there is no way around it. Any criminal defense lawyer who knows what he or she is doing will tell you that. Here is why:

Plea Bargains Aren’t Always a Bargain

When you are charged with a crime, the state has made an initial determination that they wish to prosecute you. From there, you and your lawyer are entitled to “due process,” meaning that your case gets a fair shake through the court system. Your lawyer will obtain the police reports and all other evidence associated with your case.

Depending on the severity of the charge, the prior criminal history of the defendant, the available range of punishments for the charge, the strength of the case, and last but not least, the general attitude of the Prosecutor’s Office in the county where the defendant is charged, the prosecuting attorney may extend an offer of a plea bargain. A plea bargain is a prearranged punishment in exchange for your plea of guilty to the charge (or oftentimes to an amended lesser charge). However, a plea bargain is not always rainbows and butterflies; not only is it a plea of guilty to a crime, it also can include prison time and other court sanctions, not to mention the stigma attached to admitting guilt in that crime.

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Any lawyer who doesn’t go to trial at least a few times per year, by default, ALWAYS PLEADS HIS CLIENTS GUILTY. It’s almost impossible to imagine a scenario where a criminal defense lawyer wouldn’t come across a single innocent person or a single person who wanted to challenge the charge against them. Yet, this is the reality that pervades the criminal defense industry.

A Trial Has Its Benefits

Additionally, there can be GREAT value in going to trial, like winning. For example, say the defendant is charged with murder in the first degree and using a deadly weapon. The defense is that although the defendant did in fact shoot the victim, it was in self-defense. The prosecutor has already made the determination that they are proceeding that it was not self-defense, or else the defendant wouldn’t be on trial. If the defendant entered into a plea bargain, they would be pleading guilty to something, and at the very least they would be on probation, but most likely they would receive a conviction and a prison sentence.

In that scenario, had they gone to trial and explained to the jury that it was self-defense, they could have been acquitted of the charge outright and free to go about their life as usual.

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Another value in having a lawyer that takes cases to jury trial can be explained with this example: A defendant is charged with a medium-severity offense. The case against the defendant is “OK,” but it is going to be hard for the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the defendant is guilty.

Maybe there isn’t a good identification of the suspect, or maybe the evidence as to one of the elements of the crime is weak. In many scenarios, your lawyer can calculate what may happen if you go to trial and lose. If the judge isn’t likely to sentence you to anything worse than what the prosecutor’s plea bargain offer was before trial, then there is value in taking a shot at being acquitted at trial.

Hiring a Fighter Might Get You a Better Deal

Furthermore, there may also be value in going to trial because the prosecutor may be more inclined to make a better offer or to dismiss the case altogether rather than go to trial and lose. There is no risk of the prosecutor losing at trial if he or she is facing a lawyer who always just pleads clients guilty. Therefore, the defendant is ill served by that lawyer’s reputation for avoiding jury trials.

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Ultimately, even the top lawyers who take lots of cases to trial still end up pleading out most of their cases. However, those plea bargains are going to be routinely better if prosecutors know that the defense attorney is capable of beating them, and in fact has beaten them in the past at trial. Regardless, hiring your attorney is an important decision, and you shouldn’t be hiring a lawyer who can’t or won’t try your case if it comes to that.

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Alex Wolk

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Last Updated on September 28, 2020

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

The Pros and Cons of Working from Home

At the start of the year, if you had asked anyone if they could do their work from home, many would have said no. They would have cited the need for team meetings, a place to be able to sit down and get on with their work, the camaraderie of the office, and being able to meet customers and clients face to face.

Almost ten months later, most of us have learned that we can do our work from home and in many ways, we have discovered working from home is a lot better than doing our work in a busy, bustling office environment where we are inundated with distractions and noise.

One of the things the 2020 pandemic has reminded us is we humans are incredibly adaptable. It is one of the strengths of our kind. Yet we have been unknowingly practicing this for years. When we move house we go through enormous upheaval.

When we change jobs, we not only change our work environment but we also change the surrounding people. Humans are adaptable and this adaptability gives us strength.

So, what are the pros and cons of working from home? Below I will share some things I have discovered since I made the change to being predominantly a person who works from home.

Pro #1: A More Relaxed Start to the Day

This one I love. When I had to be at a place of work in the past, I would always set my alarm to give me just enough time to make coffee, take a shower, and change. Mornings always felt like a rush.

Now, I can wake up a little later, make coffee and instead of rushing to get out of the door at a specific time, I can spend ten minutes writing in my journal, reviewing my plan for the day, and start the day in a more relaxed frame of mind.

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When you start the day in a relaxed state, you begin more positively. You find you have more clarity and more focus and you are not wasting energy worrying about whether you will be late.

Pro #2: More Quiet, Focused Time = Increased Productivity

One of the biggest difficulties of working in an office is the noise and distractions. If a colleague or boss can see you sat at your desk, you are more approachable. It is easier for them to ask you questions or engage you in meaningless conversations.

Working from home allows you to shut the door and get on with an hour or two of quiet focused work. If you close down your Slack and Email, you avoid the risk of being disturbed and it is amazing how much work you can get done.

An experiment conducted in 2012 found that working from home increased a person’s productivity by 13%, and more recent studies also find significant increases in productivity.[1]

When our productivity increases, the amount of time we need to perform our work decreases, and this means we can spend more time on activities that can bring us closer to our family and friends as well as improve our mental health.

Pro #3: More Control Over Your Day

Without bosses and colleagues watching over us all day, we have a lot more control over what we do. While some work will inevitably be more urgent than others, we still get a lot more choice about what we work on.

We also get more control over where we work. I remember when working in an office, we were given a fixed workstation. Some of these workstations were pleasant with a lot of natural sunlight, but other areas were less pleasant. It was often the luck of the draw whether we find ourselves in a good place to work or not.

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By working from home we can choose what work to work on and whether we want to face a window or not. We can get up and move to another place, and we can move from room to room. And if you have a garden, on nice days you could spend a few hours working outside.

Pro #4: You Get to Choose Your Office Environment

While many companies will provide you with a laptop or other equipment to do your work, others will give you an allowance to purchase your equipment. But with furniture such as your chair and desk, you have a lot of freedom.

I have seen a lot of amazing home working spaces with wonderful sets up—better chairs, laptop stands that make working from a laptop much more ergonomic and therefore, better for your neck.

You can also choose your wall art and the little nick-nacks on your desk or table. With all this freedom, you can create a very personal and excellent working environment that is a pleasure to work in. When you are happy doing your work, you will inevitably do better work.

Con #1: We Move a Lot Less

When we commute to a place of work, there is movement involved. Many people commute using public transport, which means walking to the bus stop or train station. Then, there is the movement at lunchtime when we go out to buy our lunch. Working in a place of work requires us to move more.

Unfortunately, working from home naturally causes us to move less and this means we are not burning as many calories as we need to.

Moving is essential to our health and if you are working from home you need to become much more aware of your movement. To ensure you are moving enough, make sure you take your lunch breaks. Get up from your desk and move. Go outside, if you can, and take a walk. And, of course, refrain from regular trips to the refrigerator.

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Con #2: Less Human Interaction

One of the nicest things about bringing a group of people together to work is the camaraderie and relationships that are built over time. Working from home takes us away from that human interaction and for many, this can cause a feeling of loss.

Humans are a social species—we need to be with other people. Without that connection, we start to feel lonely and that can lead to mental health issues.

Zoom and Microsoft Teams meeting cannot replace that interaction. Often, the interactions we get at our workplaces are spontaneous. But with video calls, there is nothing spontaneous—most of these calls are prearranged and that’s not spontaneous.

This lack of spontaneous interaction can also reduce a team’s ability to develop creative solutions—there’s just something about a group of incredibly creative people coming together in a room to thrash out ideas together that lends itself to creativity.

While video calls can be useful, they don’t match the connection between a group of people working on a solution together.

Con #3: The Cost of Buying Home Office Equipment

Not all companies are going to provide you with a nice allowance to buy expensive home office equipment. 100% remote companies such as Doist (the creators of Todoist and Twist) provide a $2,000 allowance to all their staff every two years to buy office equipment. Others are not so generous.

This can prove to be expensive for many people to create their ideal work-from-home workspace. Many people must make do with what they already have, and that could mean unsuitable chairs that damage backs and necks.

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For a future that will likely involve more flexible working arrangements, companies will need to support their staff in ways that will add additional costs to an already reduced bottom line.

Con #4: Unique Distractions

Not all people have the benefit of being able to afford childcare for young children, and this means they need to balance working and taking care of their kids.

For many parents, being able to go to a workplace gives them time away from the noise and demands of a young family, so they could get on with their work. Working from home removes this and can make doing video calls almost impossible.

To overcome this, where possible, you need to set some boundaries. I know this is not always possible, but it is something you need to try. You should do whatever you can to make sure you have some boundaries between your work life and home life.

Final Thoughts

Working from home can be hugely beneficial for many people, but it can also bring serious challenges to others.

We are moving towards a new way of working. Therefore, companies need to look at both the pros and cons of working from home and be prepared to support their staff in making this transition. It will not be impossible, but a lot of thought will need to go into it.

More About Working From Home

Featured photo credit: Standsome Worklifestyle via unsplash.com

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