We get people calling from all over Montana, places like Flathead County, Lewis and Clark County, and Yellowstone County. They ask to speak to one of us, so they can hire an "out of county attorney". Most of the stated concerns run along the lines of in-county politics; people wonder if local attorneys are as willing to put up a fight against repeat players, like the local judge or prosecutor, maybe even a local cop. While there are no broad strokes to paint here, this kind of thing does happen. So, does it make sense to hire an out of county attorney? Let's dig in...
Here are some pros and cons to consider when hiring an out-of-county attorney:
- Expertise: An out-of-county attorney may have specialized knowledge or experience in a particular area of law that local attorneys do not possess. This could potentially lead to better representation and a more favorable outcome in your case.
Chuck Watson has an unparalleled network of expert witnesses. We have used many of these witnesses, who come from all over the country, to review case files and testify in trials with excellent results. Hiring Chuck Watson to represent you in a case with complex issues (e.g., blood spatter analysis, medical examination, or accident reconstruction) can literally change its trajectory and outcome.
Case in point, it wasn't too long ago that Chuck Watson hired an accident reconstruction expert from Washington to consult on an accident that resulted in death. The expert's report was used both in negotiations and to facilitate a deeper understanding of issues that came up at trial.
Ultimately, the Madison County jury found Chuck Watson's client "Not Guilty".
- Objectivity: An out-of-county attorney may provide a more objective perspective on your case, as they are not influenced by local biases, relationships, or politics. This can be particularly beneficial in high-profile or controversial cases.
If you feel as though you are being targeted in your local community, you may want to consider someone who doesn't share that bias against you. It's not uncommon for "word on the street" to get around and even subconsciously impact the opinion or approach of a person who knows you or has heard of you. This includes attorneys! We have had several attorneys recommend us to potential clients because they found us to be a good, unbiased option for high-profile cases in larger communities like Butte-Silver Bow County or smaller ones like Prairie County.
- Reputation: Hiring an out-of-county attorney with a strong track record and a good reputation can send a strong message to the opposition and potentially influence negotiations or legal proceedings in your favor.
Sometimes an out of county attorney maintains a good enough reputation statewide that it is wise to consider the impact their integrity and good name will have on your case. For example, Herman Watson has worked hard to develop strong working relationships with the County Attorney and Courts in Dawson County. Although Glendive is a twelve hour round trip for him, these connections allow Herman Watson to communicate effectively with opposing counsel even out of county. What's more, Watson Law has helped numerous clients negotiate favorable outcomes for their cases that employ unique strategies developed in various other counties. This represents a combined impact of reputation with out of county benefits.
Chuck Watson was able to negotiate a reduction from felony DUI to misdemeanor, out of county, even though his client ran into the County Attorney's car.
- Confidentiality: In some cases, engaging an attorney from outside the local area can help to maintain greater confidentiality, as they may be less likely to encounter personal or professional connections to the parties involved in your case.
This is perhaps self explanatory, in that an out of county attorney simply has fewer opportunities to run into you or the other parties to an action.
Equally important, you would do well to consider the cons of hiring out of county attorneys:
- Cost: Hiring an out-of-county attorney can be more expensive due to additional travel and accommodation expenses, as well as potentially higher fees if the attorney has specialized expertise.
Beyond the additional costs associated with out of county representation, attorneys from cities like Missoula and Bozeman are simply more expensive. This is a result of the cost of living and doing business, which is much higher in places like Gallatin County. With increased interest in the area from tourism to nearby attractions like Yellowstone, as well as the post-COVID exodus from cities across the nation, Bozeman attorneys charge a relatively higher price than attorneys in smaller and even nearby counties, like Park County and Broadwater County.
- Local knowledge: An out-of-county attorney may lack knowledge of local laws, court procedures, and customs, which could put them at a disadvantage compared to a local attorney. Additionally, they may not have established relationships with local judges, court personnel, or opposing counsel, which can sometimes influence the outcome of a case.
For local rules violations, those enacted by towns and cities, it may be better to hire a local attorney. These are mostly traffic and misdemeanor violations that don't require the higher level evaluation and preparedness of serious or complex felonies.
If you can find someone with workable, strong relationships with local players that boasts high integrity and a willingness to fight for your rights, such an attorney is worth his or her weight in gold!
- Availability: An attorney from outside the county may have limited availability for in-person meetings, as they need to balance their commitments in their home jurisdiction. This can make communication and collaboration more challenging.
While this is certainly something to keep in mind, Watson Law does not take on more cases than it can handle. Any case picked up by our team will be offered the attention it deserves. Our attorneys have made short notice trips all across Montana, including appearances in Flathead County and Valley County. It's just part of the job for us.
- Community perception: In some instances, hiring an out-of-county attorney may be perceived negatively by the local community, especially if there is a perception that local attorneys are being overlooked or are not competent enough to handle the case.
This is a good point when considering the makeup of your potential jury. The last thing you need is a fancy lawyer from "Boz-Angeles" showing up in his or her $3,000 suit, taking the attention away from the important issues in your case. That's why it is necessary to hire someone who has a long history of practicing in front of Montana juries and can relate to people in your community. Chuck Watson and Herman Watson have long enjoyed the outdoors across our great state, meeting other hunters, fishermen, climbers, and hikers. They have also tried countless cases across more than a dozen counties, building relationships with those communities that resulted in both acquittals and friendships. Meanwhile, Megan Moore attended the University of Montana for both her Bachelor's and law degrees and maintains excellent relationships with her colleagues across the state. Watson Law understands and honors Montana and Montanans.
It is worth noting that some people don't like attorneys because of their success. It's worth doing your own research to see if that attorney will work hard for you, finding similar success in the face of institutional bias.
Ultimately, the decision to hire an out-of-county attorney will depend on the specific needs of your case, the expertise of the available attorneys, and the potential benefits and drawbacks that come with working with someone outside the local area. It is essential to weigh these factors carefully and choose the attorney that best suits your situation. Good luck, and let us know if you have any questions during a free consultation. (406) 586-4707 or contact us through this website.