Everything You Need to Know About Which Type of Attorney is Best for You

Acquiring an attorney to represent you is critical when facing a legal charge. Here is what you need to know about whether a public defender or private attorney is best for you.

Public Defender

A public defender is typically a lawyer who represents criminal defendants who are otherwise unable to afford a private attorney. They are often appointed by the court to a defendant and are paid by the county, state, or federal government. Due to this, a public defender works for the government.

Private Attorney

A private attorney is essentially the opposite of a public defender. A private attorney is a lawyer who is employed by a private person rather than the government. A private attorney works for a private corporation, not the government.

Advantages of a Public Defender

Hiring a public defender has its advantages. Public defenders often work every day with the same judges and prosecutors. This consistency means that public defenders will know how each judge and prosecutor operates and how best to use it to their advantage. They have also worked with the same public officers that may testify in your case and will be able to discern who will be a good or bad witness to your case.

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They typically work on cases that involve niche areas of law. With their massive caseload, this can mean that public defenders will know every aspect of the area of law regarding your case. They will be able to provide you with every plausible option available to you. Whereas private attorneys may not be as well versed in specific areas of law and may not be able to discern every legal option available to you.

Disadvantages of a Public Defender

The biggest disadvantage of hiring public defenders is that they are often overworked. Their caseload is determined by the government office they work for and taking on large caseloads causes them to spread themselves thin over each case. In short, this may mean having a public defender represent you in court may result in less communication and time spent with your attorney. It may even be the case that you would not speak to your attorney until the day of your court appearance.

Additionally, you do not have much of a choice when it comes to which public defender represents you. Whoever is assigned to represent you is the attorney you are essentially stuck with.

Advantages of a Private Attorney

Unlike public defenders, private attorneys are able to self-manage their caseload. They can choose to take on cases when they are available. Therefore, private attorneys are able to communicate with and dedicate more time to their clients. For many people, this is a huge benefit because it allows their attorney to spend more time cultivating a case tailored to their client. They are also able to respond to their client’s questions and concerns while helping them navigate their case which is beneficial to those who are unfamiliar with the legal system.

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In hiring a private attorney, you also have the freedom to choose which attorney represents you. This allows you to select an attorney that has the knowledge and capabilities to represent you in whatever legal issues you are facing. You can also choose the number of people working on your case. This includes whether the firm will also allot other attorneys, paralegals, or assistants to work on your case.

In being able to choose your representation, the private attorney assigned to you has a personal stake in the outcome of your case because their success in representing clients is how they further acquire more clients.

Disadvantages of a Private Attorney

The biggest disadvantage of hiring a private attorney is the cost. While public defenders are court-appointed and typically do not require any costly fees, private attorney fees are pretty steep. Attorneys who charge by the hour for their services typically charge anywhere between $100-$300 per hour. Depending on the attorney’s experience and qualifications, the fees may be even higher.

They may also set a flat fee for a certain legal charge, no matter the number of hours dedicated to the case. For example, if you are fighting a drunk driving charge, a private attorney may charge a flat rate of $2,500 to represent you.

Difference Between Private and Public

When deciding between a private attorney or a public defender as legal representation in court, it is important to note what you qualify for. Public defenders are a legal representation that is accessible for those who otherwise could not hire a private attorney. Because public defenders are employed by the city, state, or federal government, individuals seeking legal counsel do not have to directly pay public defenders.

In order to receive a public defender, you must apply with a financial affidavit stating your financial situation and proving you are unable to hire a private attorney. If you qualify, a judge will appoint a public defender to represent you.

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