For reasons I explained in a previous post, I decided to hire a lawyer to handle my court appearance for a traffic ticket. I was going to write about my day in court, but I thought maybe I should explain how I hired a lawyer.
As in most things, I used the web. I did a search at findlaw.com for traffic lawyers with offices near the courthouse, on the theory that a lawyer familiar with the ways of the courthouse (and maybe the judge and the prosecutor) would have more to contribute. I picked one out because I liked the content of his website—light on “I will fight for you” rhetoric, but with lots of free information.
That’s not the most intelligent way to pick a lawyer, I know, but I figured it wouldn’t be that bad because I was assuming that all traffic lawyers are pretty much alike.
No, that’s not quite right. I was assuming that the quality of the lawyer wouldn’t make that much difference. After all, it’s just a traffic ticket: The difference between the worst case and the best case outcomes was only one traffic conviction and a small fine.
Actually, that’s not quite right either. What I was really assuming is that the stakes were so small that it wasn’t worth too much of my time trying to pick a good lawyer, especially since I don’t know how.
I emailed him, he called back and we talked for a few minutes. A couple of days later, I stopped in at the office to discuss the case, then I filled out the paperwork to hire him. Actually, I hired his firm, which meant someone else would handle the case, which is what I expected.
The fee was a flat $375, which struck me as a lot, especially since that almost what Ken Lammers used to get paid for felony indigent defense. The last time I was in traffic court was maybe 20 years ago, and I seem to remember there were lawyers hanging around in the hall who could be hired for about $75. Then again, maybe I don’t want lawyers who hang out in the hall for clients.
I don’t know if I got robbed or not. I probably could have shopped around more and found a better price, but I’m not planning to hire any more lawyers, so it wasn’t a priority. I guess he probably knew that too, so he probably did stick it to me on the price…
Out of curiosity, I checked out the Cook County Public Defender’s web site. I was surprised to see that they do provide attorneys for traffic cases, but only for cases where jail time is a possibility. Not that it matters: I could afford an attorney, so one would not be appointed for me.
Visiting their site did remind me that they have this way-cool downloadable PDF card telling you what to say if questioned by police. I’ve been carrying mine around for about a year.