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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 July 8, 2020

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

18 Benefits of Journaling That Will Change Your Life

The act of writing in a journal often seems daunting or unnecessary to many people. Even authors who work on novels might shun the idea of daily diaries. What purpose does jotting down words on a regular basis do if not contributing to the next novel, play or song? I know from experience many benefits of journaling that I wish to share.

1. Understand Yourself Better

Though many people and even writers avoid keeping journals, I vow to do it more often. Not only do I desire to take up daily journaling but also I plan to do it with pen to paper.

Some of the benefits I’ve found from my more active days include finding myself in the sense of understanding what matters to me and what I want out of life. I’ve been incredibly fortunate to find a spouse who is my best friend and advocate in raising children. I attribute this and much more to what I learned about myself in keeping journals for years.

2. Keep Track of Small Changes

I’ll admit that I never got very far with my guitar lessons, but in writing in a journal, I have seen the ability to track small changes like those that come when you practice anything.

Those learning a musical instrument often fail to see the small improvements that come with regular practice. Writing won’t help you switch chords any faster, but it will help you to develop a better sense for language and grammar just by doing it.

3. Become Aware of What Matters

As you continue to write in a journal, following a stream-of-consciousness feel, you can look back on the topics that you chose to write about. Those issues and emotions that poured out of you will provide insight on to what matters most to you.

You may not even realize that you’re job is depressing you or that you want to spend more time with your kids until you look over your thoughts that you weren’t really thinking about.

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4. Boost Creativity

The idea that the brain and its neural activity across hemispheres encourages learning also shows up in increased creativity. Just like with learning an instrument, your increased activity will inspire your thoughts to connect and reconnect in different ways.

When I wrote in a journal, I often wrote poetry as well as just my thoughts as they came out. I started to hear poems more in my mind; so much so that I took to scrawling lines on napkins and finding metaphors in mundane activities.

You really are what you do, so writing helps grow more than being a writer. Writing boosts the way you communicate and structure language, which really is a creative process.

5. Represents Your Emotions in a Safe Environment

A journal is as private as it gets. You can lock it in a safe or tuck it under a pillow and no one will accidentally share it on social media or have an opportunity to “leave a comment.”

Write about your sorrow as much as your happiness and frustration and know that you don’t have to keep your emotions inside your body. You can put them on paper.

6. Process Life Experiences

When you take the time to look back over what you’ve written, be it a week or a year later, you will have the distance you need to more objectively interpret your raw feelings.

Everything from losing a job to losing a loved one can emerge in a new light for a fresh perspective. Figuring out how the benefits of journaling affect your perspective on life will create connection and increase creativity.

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7. Stress Relief

In combining the exercise inherent in fine motor coordination that comes from the act of writing with the emotional release of self expression, those who maintain a journal relieve stress.

Try it out. Go home and write about your day. Write about the traffic. Write about the coffee order the barista got wrong but you didn’t have time to change. See how you can physically purge some of that pent-up stress by putting it on paper.

8. Provide Direction

Though journaling is often conducted as an activity without much direction, it often provides direction.

One of the biggest benefits of journaling is that your chaotic thoughts merge to show a direction in which to head. Asking the right questions is the only way to achieve the best solutions, so look to your journal to find your way toward your next goal.

9. Solve Problems

Just as in practicing math problems, we all get better at finding hidden solutions through the act of processing.

Think of your next goal as X and solve your life problems by reading your journals as word problems. The benefit of journaling here is that you write, explore and process to recognize and then solve problems.

When life is too in-your-face, you have to step back to see reality. Living in the moment allows us to write in the moment and use that expression to solve problems.

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10. Find Relief From Fighting

Solving your problems only comes after time to process, recognize and strategize. Just as in the benefit of journaling where relief comes from the act of writing, relief from fighting comes when you decide to “sit this one out” and communicate one-way.

Fighting is only productive when the fighters care to communicate and find common ground. When the emotions are as high as the stress levels, writing will function as the best time out.

11. Find Meaning in Life

Journaling will show you why you are living, whether you are wallowing in things you wish to change or striving to make the changes. Your life will begin to take on new meaning and your own words will reveal the actions that got you where you are so that you can assess and pave a new path for your future.

12. Allow Yourself to Focus

Taking even a small amount of time out of every day will provide you with not only peace of mind but also increased focus. Taking a break to meditate in writing and journaling will sharpen your mental faculties.

13. Sharpen Your Spirituality

When we write, we allow all the energy and experiences to flow through us, which often provides further insight into our own spirituality. Even if your parents didn’t raise you to follow a specific religion, your thoughts will start to show you what you believe about the universe and your place in it.

14. Let the Past Go

I’ve mentioned a few examples where going back over your writing offers advice and direction, but the simply truth is that writing down our feelings can be the best way to let them go. We can choose to literally throw these pages away when they’re filled with negativity and hate.

15. Allow Freedom

Journaling is the perfect way to not only express yourself but to also experience the freedom of being who you are. Your books can stay private or you can publish them. Your freedom stems from your sense of self and your perception of your thoughts.

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16. Enhance Your Career

Again, the private act of pen-to-paper processing provides the benefits of journaling mentioned above, but you can also enhance your career when you take similar ideas and categorize, edit and publish them in an online blog.

Your thoughts will often be personal and express emotions, but another benefit of journaling is uncovering fresh ideas about your work.

17. Literally Explore Your Dreams

All the benefits I’ve mentioned explore ideas, thoughts and emotions, which is also what our dreams and nightmares do. Through writing down your dreams from the previous night, you can enhance your creativity as well as connect some of the metaphorical dots from the rest of your journal.

18. Catalog Your Life for Others

No one wants to think about dying, but we all die. Leaving a journal will act as a way to reconnect with family and friends left behind. The ideas you wish to keep personal while you process the life you’re living will serve to rekindle and inspire those who loved you through the process.

We consider our partners our life witnesses, but writing provides a tangible mark on the world.

Now that you’ve learned all the benefits of journaling, it’s time to start writing a journal:

Featured photo credit: Kelly Sikkema via unsplash.com

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