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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 March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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