When you face a DUI charge, it is important to understand your DUI attorney client relationship and set reasonable expectations. It is also important to make sure that you and your DUI attorney are on the same page as to what is expected.
The retainer and fee agreement should lay out most everything that might come up in the course of your case. However, the following are things that are you should be confident that your lawyer will do:
- Communicate regularly with you regarding your case. This means that whenever there is an update, your lawyer or his or her staff should let you know promptly. You should not expect a call every week unless there is a reason for the communication. For lawyers who charge for their time rather than on a flat-fee basis, you should feel free to contact them whenever you want, but understand that you will be billed for each call. It is reasonable to expect that phone calls and emails be returned within a couple of business days under all circumstances.
- Keep your information confidential. Your lawyer should keep all information about your case confidential, except as is necessary to properly represent you.
- Explain your options. A lawyer should give you an opinion as to what you should do, but should also explain the alternatives to his or her recommendation. You and your lawyer should work in partnership to achieve the best result for you.
- Your lawyer should not pressure you. You should not feel bullied or pressured to make an important decision in your case. Early and complete communication will ensure that you don't have to make a split second decision. However, you should understand that a last minute plea bargain may be offered in court on a take-it-or-leave-it basis, in which case you may be forced, through no fault of your DUI lawyer's, to make an instant decision.
It is as important for you to know what not to expect from your lawyer. Every experienced lawyer has dealt with his or her share of pushy or high maintainance clients. The very good (and therefore busy ones) may even screen out potential clients who are likely to make life difficult and detract from their service to other clients. The following is a list of things you should not expect from your DUI lawyer:
- Don't expect the lawyer to pick up the phone when you call. Most lawyers have a staff that answers the phones and deals with routine matters. The lawyer's time is best spent in meetings, and court and preparing cases. If you want to know when your next court date is, a receptionist or paralegal can answer that question. When you have a matter that you need to discuss with your lawyer, don't expect the lawyer to drop whatever they are doing the second you call. Often times, the lawyer will need to pull and review your file before discussing your case with you. You should expect a call-back in a reasonable amount of time, but not instant gratification.
- Don't expect the lawyer to take care of routine matters such as calling an impound yard for directions for you. If it is a non-legal issue that you can handle yourself, your lawyer probably hasn't built such service into the flat fee. On the other hand, if you are being charged hourly, would you want to pay $300 per hour for a lawyer to sit on hold with the DMV when you can do that yourself? If the answer is yes, that is fine, but expect to get billed, and pay your bill.
- Don't expect the primary lawyer to do everything in your case unless it is explicitly promised at the start of your case. If you meet with a senior partner, it is highly that some of all of the work in your case will be delegated to lower level partners or associates within the firm. Delegation is to be expected, so don't complain about it unless it was not part of your agreement, or unless the person doing the work is not performing well.
- Don't yell at your lawyer. Your DUI lawyer didn't get you into this situation. Some DUI defendants want to transfer blame for their plight onto their attorney. Doing so will not serve your best interests or help your case.
- Don't expect your lawyer to read your mind. If you have questions or concerns, voice them as soon as they arise. Communication is a two-way street, and you owe your lawyer to curtesy of speaking your mind.