How to Find An Affordable Defense Lawyer
Start Your Attorney Search Early
Begin looking for a lawyer as soon as you know you are going to court. Even if you decide you can't afford a lawyer or you end up qualifying for a free public defender you can still get free legal advice during your search. And in the case that you end up hiring a lawyer you will want to give yourself as much time as possible.
Who you hire to defend you strongly affects the outcome of your case and you need to give yourself a few weeks to shop around. If you leave it to the last week before your court date it will be very stressful and it's likely you'll end up choosing someone who isn't the best fit for your case or you will overpay.
Where to Search For A Defense Attorney
For whatever crime you were charged with there are online resources that help you find an attorney. Lawyer.com and similar sites will take a brief summary of your situation and your contact information and send it to law firms in your state that are looking for new clients. This is a good way to reach out because they will only contact applicants if they know they can represent them, so you don't waste your time talking to a lawyer that can't help you.
Have you asked for a lower price from a lawyer?
Cost Compare Lawyers
Can you haggle on your lawyer's cost?
In most cases yes, you can. A lawyer provides a service and the can set their rate as high as they want as long as they are competitive with other lawyers in the area. So before you settle on one lawyer, cost check him with other legal counsel in your area. Here is how to do it:
STEP 1: DO YOUR RESEARCH
How much (or how little) you need to pay for a lawyer depends strongly on your state and your situation. Luckily, for most offenses it is easy to get a free consultation on your specific case and know how much they will charge you.
What is imperative here that you start looking early. Then you have time to talk to quite a few lawyers and go ahead and have their offices send you a fee agreement via email. In a matter of a week or two you can have 5 or 6 lawyers priced.
2. Get Your Lawyer for a fair price
Now you have enough information to start the haggling process. You're not really going to haggle but instead present what you can afford and let them know your situation, you're just going to spin it to your benefit of course.
For example, imagine you gathered fee agreements from a few offices to represent you in a DUI case and the lowest offered a flat fee of $2,500. First you call the lawyer that you most want to represent you and let him/her know how you were talking to another law firm and they offered to represent you for $2,200. You mention you can't do that in your current situation. At this point they are likely to offer a price lower than the $2,200 to secure you as a client. If they don't at lest offer their services for the $2,200 you mentioned go ahead and move on to the next lawyer and try the same thing.
Ask Your Attorney for a Payment Plan
The costs incurred to your lawyer will be gradual. A first court appearance, a second, various motions and maybe an eventual trial. Most law agencies will offer a payment plan, usually where you pay about 50% upfront and then make monthly payments. They will not charge interest.
Take some time to seriously consider whether you will may be incarcerated during any of the time you will be making payments to them. Make sure you either pay them in full before you go to jail or have someone who can make the payments while you are gone.
Compare Lawyers' Reviews
If you are satisfied with the fee you will be charged, how do you know your lawyer is the right one to represent you? Start by asking him about his experience. But don't rely on that alone, he is a lawyer after all so should be excellent at convincing you he is the guy for the job.
Additional Trial Fees
The cost a lawyer will set out in a fee agreement likely covers only work done pretrial. There should be a line in there stating how much additional you will pay if your case goes to trial. Spend some time asking each lawyer you contact the likelihood of your case going to trial. They aren't going to be able to give you a definite answer but you will be able to get an idea.
Almost 90% of criminal cases plead guilty in lieu of a trial so it is unlikely and you have the ultimate control based on what you plea.
Get The Most Out of Your Lawyer
You pay a lot for legal counsel so don't be shy about getting the most value you can out of your lawyer. Ask questions when you don't understand and make sure he understands your interests and all sides of your case.