Any lawyer can do the job, right?

Being attorneys that are in court on a continuous basis and having practiced in our respective areas as long as we have, we can easily identify those lawyers that are “out of their element.”  The change in the economic climate has affected everyone, even lawyers.  Attorneys that once did business litigation, real estate closings, and the like have found that their market has dried up a bit.  However, with the down economy, two areas of practice have grown exponentially…Criminal Law and Divorce/Child Custody Work.  Our “market” has been inundated with lawyers that have decided to take on a case or two, often at reduced fees, just to make ends meet when all they have is a license which ALLOWS them to practice any type of law; however, they don’t have the expertise that AFFORDS them the ability to do the job correctly.


There are several points to take into consideration when hiring a lawyer to handle your criminal case or divorce/custody issue.  These are not all inclusive, but they are a good starting point.


1.     Don’t hire the cheapest lawyer you find…you get what you pay for.


We can’t even begin to count the number of times that a prospective client didn’t hire our office because another attorney quoted them a fee that wasn’t just lower, but it was DRASTICALLY lower.  We certainly are not the cheapest or most expensive law firm in the metro area; however, our fees are directly proportionate to our experience and expertise.  If you speak to a number of attorneys who seem to know what they are talking about and all of them are quoting a fee that are within $500 and $1000 of each other, you are probably on the right track.  However, when you have an attorney that is quoting you a fee that is half, if not 75% less than other offices, BEWARE.  These are attorneys that don’t know the value of the service that NEEDS to be provided.  This could be because they only dabble in that area of the law or their level of experience with your type of case is scarce at best. 


Ask yourself a question, if every other car dealer is selling that vehicle you have been looking at for three weeks within a price range of $22,000 and $25,000…but you find another dealer offering it to you for $12,000 (however, they want you to buy it without an inspection), are you going to hand over the money without a second thought?  Your legal issue is the most important thing going on in your life right now; don’t go with the budget lawyer; you have no idea what you will end up with.


2.     Ask them about their background and whether they have experience trying cases.


An attorney should be quick to recite his or her resume.  Any trial lawyer can recount for you their recent track record, basic facts of those cases, where they got their training from, etc.  If you ask an attorney about their last 3 trials they had in front of jury and they look at you like a deer in headlights, this is not a good sign.  You can always count on an experienced lawyer to be ready, willing and able to brag about their recent successes.  Not necessarily the best trait to have; however, you can certainly use it to your benefit.


3.     Interview at least three attorneys, even if it is over the phone.


Did you marry the first man or woman you ever had a conversation with?  Now, I am sure that there are a handful of people out there that will tell me they met their wife of 50 years when they were 5 years old and never looked back.  Sure, it is possible that the first lawyer you speak with will be the one for you; however, how are you supposed to know without courting a few of them.  Take your time and speak to several prospective attorneys after doing your own research first.  Then ask the tough questions.  If they start making promises to you in your first conversation about what will happen with your case (and it seems too good to be true) they are likely lying (overselling) to you in order to get your money.  Talk to as many lawyers as you can but don’t let this process delay your hiring of a lawyer too long.  It is still imperative to hire an attorney as soon as possible to protect all of your legal rights. 


4.     Make sure your prospective attorney takes a burden off when you swipe your card or write a check.


When hiring a lawyer, it’s not like a normal purchase.  You don’t get to walk out with a new electronic device or drive away in a new vehicle.  The only thing a lawyer sells you is peace of mind that your issues will be handled.  Most people that come into our office carry the burden of their troubles with them all day because they don’t know what to do or what to expect.  A lawyer should be able to take that burden from you (as much as possible) and allow you to rest easy that everything is being taken care of.  We tell our clients when they leave our office, TRY NOT TO WORRY ABOUT IT…if there is something for you to worry about, we will call you and tell you to do so.  If you are not getting that feeling, leave and do not look back.


If you have been searching for a lawyer with the experience to handle your legal issues, call our office today.  Don’t wait!  (770) 945-2320


Hiring Local Counsel: Who are they and why is it important?

There are many things to consider when hiring an attorney.  All these things will be a topic of another article; however, in this post we would like to discuss why it is important to hire “local counsel.”


Local counsel can mean three different things.  First, it can mean an actual physical presence in the jurisdiction.  For instance, our office is located in Suwanee, Georgia which is in Gwinnett County.  We would be considered local counsel for that jurisdiction given that our practice is established and maintained in that circuit.


Also, local counsel can mean that the attorney has close ties to that jurisdiction.  For instance, Phil Pilgrim was a prosecutor in Forsyth County while Amy Carter was a prosecutor in Jackson and Barrow Counties.  Therefore, our office has significant ties to those jurisdictions and we are intimately familiar with the inner workings of those offices.


Third, and most importantly, local counsel means that the practitioner practices in that jurisdiction currently, consistently and continuously.  Our office CURRENTLY, CONSISTENTLY and CONTINUOUSLY handles cases in Gwinnett, Forsyth, Hall, Barrow, Jackson, and Dawson Counties.  The result of this is that the prosecutors know our names, they know our reputations, and they know how to work with us as we do them. 


So, why is this important?  Being “Local Counsel” gives an attorney a bit of an edge in each case.  We might know what a particular prosecutor needs to hear in order to exercise discretion in your case, what a judge may do when confronted with a certain set of facts, or what avenues would need to be pursued when preparing your case for trial in a particular jurisdiction.  These are all things that can have a tremendous impact on how your case moves forward and the possibility of obtaining a result that meets your goals without having to risk a trial in front of jury of your peers. 


Obviously, we will handle cases anywhere.  There are many times when our client base wants to hire our firm specifically for our expertise in a particular area of the law; however, we have never been shy about referring out a case to “local counsel” in another jurisdiction when we believed that the client’s interests would be better served by another attorney handling their case. 


We want to do what is in the best interest of the people that walk through our door.  If you are looking for an attorney who will do what is right by you, do not hesitate to contact our office at (770) 945-2320

When Should I Hire a Lawyer?

We receive a volume of calls at our office every week regarding people interested in retaining our services after being charged with a crime.  So often, people feel that time is on their side.  They get arrested and when they bond out they notice that they either don’t have a court date for another 3 months or they are told that they will receive notice in the mail.  So often, people sit back and push these looming issues to the back burner because, “Its months away, I will deal with it later.”  At least once a week people ask, when should I hire a lawyer?  My response to that question is, as you are walking out of the jail you should be making calls.  There are 4 very important reasons why you should hire counsel immediately and in this blog post, we will explain the benefits of hiring a lawyer in the early stages of your case.


First, a majority of defense attorneys have been in private practice their entire career.  At Carter ♦ Pilgrim, we come with past experiences in prosecution.  That experience gives us a tremendous amount of insight into “what the other side is thinking.”  Every case is different and the reality is, from the outset, most prosecutors have confidence in their officer’s, confidence in their cases, and preconceived notions about you.  They have seen a report/video and that is all they need to see.  Along with that, you are no different than everyone else you will be sitting with in court.


By hiring a firm like ours, we will have you working proactively to set you apart from the 100’s if not 1000’s of people being shuffled across the prosecutor’s desk on a weekly and monthly basis.  The things that we have you working on are strategically tailored to each individual case and formulated using the wealth of experience we gained during our number of years as prosecutors.  Our goal is to position you and your case to garner discretion and avoid a trial if possible.  By rule, if we could convince ourselves to reduce or dismiss your case, we can convince our adversary to do the same. 


Second, there are many types of charges that could continue to expose you to law enforcement questioning and investigation.  It is imperative to have counsel on your team during these times to advise you as to what level of participation (if at all) is appropriate.  Issues with your bond could arise, problems with a victim in your case could present, or the State may seek additional charges due to a continued investigation.  These are all things that having an attorney from the outset could help you navigate and possibly avoid.


Third, it takes time to get discovery (evidence).  Calling an attorney a day or week before you go to court does not give us any opportunity to prepare for your case.  We need to have a discussion with you to determine your side of the story, we need to obtain all reports and supplementals so we know what the state plans to present, and we need adequate time to review and absorb this information to formulate a plan and defense.  We are good at what we do; however, we are not clairvoyant and cannot work miracles.  Much of the time, pressure has to be put on the government to comply with our requests.  This takes time and time is one thing we will not have if you wait to hire a lawyer.  Judges are quick to not accommodate us with requests for continuance when our client has had months to retain counsel. 


Finally, in many cases, there are deadlines and timing requirements to file documents and requests to protect your rights.  We don’t know if those deadlines exist in your case unless you call us and we investigate it for ourselves.  Don’t assume nothing has to be done for months.  Many of these things cannot be fixed if a deadline is missed…so do not hesitate to pick up a phone if you have been arrested. 


Again, on a case by case basis, I could probably point out even more reasons why it would be prudent to get counsel on board immediately; however, the above four stated reasons are consistent with nearly every case.  If you have been arrested and charged with any type of crime, do yourself and your attorney a favor, make the call now and don’t wait.  The longer you put it off because you “just don’t want to deal with it right now” the harder times will be for you and your future counsel. 


Call us at (770) 945-2320 for a free case evaluation 24/7.  Our phones are forwarded after hours.  If we don’t answer, leave a message and you will receive a call back promptly.  

Common Question regarding Protective Orders and other “No Contact” Orders put in place by the Court

Quite frequently clients will call and ask “Can the person with a protective order against me, contact me? Or “I have bond condition that says that I cannot contact the “protected” party, however, they keep calling me.”  Our client’s wonder if the “protected” party is contact me, does that mean we can start communicating?  Or, will the “protected” party who is not following the no contact order get in trouble for contacting me? 


First, if the protected party is calling or reaching out to the other side that does not mean the order is null and void and communication can commence.  Of course it is extremely strong evidence that the protected party is not afraid for their safety.  However, the only way the communication can continue is if the Judge amends the order to allow for it.  Secondly, the party with whom the Order protects is not supposed to contact the other party.  However, that being said, it happens all the time.  Although the courts do not take kindly to the “protected” party making contact; there are technically no ramifications or laws that will be broken if the protected person does in fact make contact.  On the other hand, if the person with whom the order is against accepts that contact and communicates with the “protected” party, the person with whom the order is against is facing a potential felony charge of aggravated stalking.  We have clients all the time that tell us that there is no way the “protected” party will report them or testify against them, however, all it takes is one phone call to the police and a felony warrant can be taken out.  The court means business when it comes to these no contact orders and when they are broken it makes it very difficult to convince a Judge that next time the parties will respect and follow the Court’s Order.  Remember, it is not a defense to say the “protected” party called me first!


Our advice is let us handle it! Call us the first time the protected party makes contact with you.  Let us put the prosecutor on notice so that everyone is on the same page.  We deal with these situations every day and are very comfortable with speaking to prosecutors and judges about amending orders to allow contact.  Let us take care of it before you are calling with a new felony case of aggravated stalking.      


If you are dealing with a Protective Order, contact us today for a free consultation: (770) 945-2320