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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 January 21, 2020

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

The Best Way to Create a Vision for the Life You Want

Creating a vision for your life might seem like a frivolous, fantastical waste of time, but it’s not: creating a compelling vision of the life you want is actually one of the most effective strategies for achieving the life of your dreams. Perhaps the best way to look at the concept of a life vision is as a compass to help guide you to take the best actions and make the right choices that help propel you toward your best life.

your vision of where or who you want to be is the greatest asset you have

    Why You Need a Vision

    Experts and life success stories support the idea that with a vision in mind, you are more likely to succeed far beyond what you could otherwise achieve without a clear vision. Think of crafting your life vision as mapping a path to your personal and professional dreams. Life satisfaction and personal happiness are within reach. The harsh reality is that if you don’t develop your own vision, you’ll allow other people and circumstances to direct the course of your life.

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    How to Create Your Life Vision

    Don’t expect a clear and well-defined vision overnight—envisioning your life and determining the course you will follow requires time, and reflection. You need to cultivate vision and perspective, and you also need to apply logic and planning for the practical application of your vision. Your best vision blossoms from your dreams, hopes, and aspirations. It will resonate with your values and ideals, and will generate energy and enthusiasm to help strengthen your commitment to explore the possibilities of your life.

    What Do You Want?

    The question sounds deceptively simple, but it’s often the most difficult to answer. Allowing yourself to explore your deepest desires can be very frightening. You may also not think you have the time to consider something as fanciful as what you want out of life, but it’s important to remind yourself that a life of fulfillment does not usually happen by chance, but by design.

    It’s helpful to ask some thought-provoking questions to help you discover the possibilities of what you want out of life. Consider every aspect of your life, personal and professional, tangible and intangible. Contemplate all the important areas, family and friends, career and success, health and quality of life, spiritual connection and personal growth, and don’t forget about fun and enjoyment.

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    Some tips to guide you:

    • Remember to ask why you want certain things
    • Think about what you want, not on what you don’t want.
    • Give yourself permission to dream.
    • Be creative. Consider ideas that you never thought possible.
    • Focus on your wishes, not what others expect of you.

    Some questions to start your exploration:

    • What really matters to you in life? Not what should matter, what does matter.
    • What would you like to have more of in your life?
    • Set aside money for a moment; what do you want in your career?
    • What are your secret passions and dreams?
    • What would bring more joy and happiness into your life?
    • What do you want your relationships to be like?
    • What qualities would you like to develop?
    • What are your values? What issues do you care about?
    • What are your talents? What’s special about you?
    • What would you most like to accomplish?
    • What would legacy would you like to leave behind?

    It may be helpful to write your thoughts down in a journal or creative vision board if you’re the creative type. Add your own questions, and ask others what they want out of life. Relax and make this exercise fun. You may want to set your answers aside for a while and come back to them later to see if any have changed or if you have anything to add.

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    What Would Your Best Life Look Like?

    Describe your ideal life in detail. Allow yourself to dream and imagine, and create a vivid picture. If you can’t visualize a picture, focus on how your best life would feel. If you find it difficult to envision your life 20 or 30 years from now, start with five years—even a few years into the future will give you a place to start. What you see may surprise you. Set aside preconceived notions. This is your chance to dream and fantasize.

    A few prompts to get you started:

    • What will you have accomplished already?
    • How will you feel about yourself?
    • What kind of people are in your life? How do you feel about them?
    • What does your ideal day look like?
    • Where are you? Where do you live? Think specifics, what city, state, or country, type of community, house or an apartment, style and atmosphere.
    • What would you be doing?
    • Are you with another person, a group of people, or are you by yourself?
    • How are you dressed?
    • What’s your state of mind? Happy or sad? Contented or frustrated?
    • What does your physical body look like? How do you feel about that?
    • Does your best life make you smile and make your heart sing? If it doesn’t, dig deeper, dream bigger.

    It’s important to focus on the result, or at least a way-point in your life. Don’t think about the process for getting there yet—that’s the next stepGive yourself permission to revisit this vision every day, even if only for a few minutes. Keep your vision alive and in the front of your mind.

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    Plan Backwards

    It may sound counter-intuitive to plan backwards rather than forwards, but when you’re planning your life from the end result, it’s often more useful to consider the last step and work your way back to the first. This is actually a valuable and practical strategy for making your vision a reality.

    • What’s the last thing that would’ve had to happen to achieve your best life?
    • What’s the most important choice you would’ve had to make?
    • What would you have needed to learn along the way?
    • What important actions would you have had to take?
    • What beliefs would you have needed to change?
    • What habits or behaviors would you have had to cultivate?
    • What type of support would you have had to enlist?
    • How long will it have taken you to realize your best life?
    • What steps or milestones would you have needed to reach along the way?

    Now it’s time to think about your first step, and the next step after that. Ponder the gap between where you are now and where you want to be in the future. It may seem impossible, but it’s quite achievable if you take it step-by-step.

    It’s important to revisit this vision from time to time. Don’t be surprised if your answers to the questions, your technicolor vision, and the resulting plans change. That can actually be a very good thing; as you change in unforeseeable ways, the best life you envision will change as well. For now, it’s important to use the process, create your vision, and take the first step towards making that vision a reality.

    Featured photo credit: Matt Noble via unsplash.com

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