What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer:
Above All Else, Look For Tenacity
Not much else will strike as much fear in the heart of a person like the possibility of being convicted of a crime and the thoughts of facing prison time. If for whatever reason, you suspect you might need legal counsel—you probably do. Being suspected of or charged with a crime is a life-changing experience.
You have nothing to gain by making the wrong choice in selecting a lawyer. When the time comes to engage the services of a lawyer, above all else look for tenacity.
The dictionary defines tenacious as “holding firmly, tough, persistent, and stubborn.” Thesaurus.com lists more than 30 synonyms for tenacity—and you want someone who has them all.
You Have Options
Finding a staunch, steadfast, and successful lawyer is both a subjective and objective task. Check with the local bar association to verify the educational background and to rule out those with disciplinary actions pending. Review each potential candidate’s website for client testimonials and examples of trial outcomes. Ask other professionals in your community for a recommendation.
Criminal Defense Requires Experience
When you are diagnosed with cancer, as much as you trust and respect your family practice doctor, you go to an oncologist for the specialty care you need. When facing legal charges that can derail your life, hire a lawyer with the perseverance and persistence to pursue the legal specialty of criminal defense, and get the best you can afford. When your personal and professional relationships are on the verge of destruction, compromise elsewhere.
A criminal defense attorney has extensive experience representing, and defending those who have been accused of a crime. They are strong-willed and determined to demonstrate every action has a legitimate defense. They have the strength-of-purpose to ensure his or her client’s constitutional rights are protected.
Some of the more common crimes a criminal defense lawyer can handle include:
- Drug offenses
- Sex crimes
- Weapons charges
- White-collar crimes
- Hate crimes
- Money laundering
Ask, Ask, Ask
When life as you know it, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are at stake, no question should be off-limits and no question should go unanswered.
You need to know as much about the team who will be defending you, and they will need to know about you. Seek out a local firm with impressive credentials. Why local? Having a relentless advocate on your side who is familiar with the inner workings of the courthouse, and one that has a professional relationship with the members of the legal community can often work to your advantage.
Take responsibility for your future—arrange for a consultation with a reputable firm and go prepared. Bring as much information to the table as possible, such as:
- A detailed list of any facts you can think of concerning your arrest, or your involvement in any potential criminal act
- Any documents, letters, emails or photographs you feel may be important
Be prepared to ask as many questions as necessary to feel comfortable with your choice. Peace of mind is important during stressful times. Defense attorneys understand the frightening position potential clients find themselves in. They should take no offense at questions such as:
- How many years they have been a defense attorney
- What are the potential outcomes for a case like yours
- Their honest assessment of your particular situation
- Will they handle your case from start to finish
- Do they belong to any professional organizations
- What percent of their cases historically go to trial
Use Your Listening Skills
Pay close attention to the questions the attorney asks you during the initial consultation. Did he or she seem genuinely concerned about your situation? Did they explain your options in terms you could easily understand? Did they give you all the time you needed to feel comfortable?
Generally speaking, your instincts will give you the answer to the question, “is this firm the right choice for me?” When you have the opportunity to visit the law office and put a face to the name you should feel a connection with both the professional and the clerical staff. When the surroundings are well maintained, organized, and filled with friendly approachable staff members you should have more than a hunch your legal experience will be handled professionally and competently. It is easy to tell from a conversation if a person has a passion for what they do. Choose a lawyer who believes in what he or she is doing and, more importantly, who believes in protecting your rights no matter who you are or what you have been accused of doing.
One Thing You Do Not Need Right Now Is Any More Surprises
Talk About The Elephant In The Room
It is in everyone’s best interest to frankly discuss finances, fees and costs upfront. Lawyers are also business people. They have devoted considerable time and money in their education, and professional development and they do expect to be paid for services rendered. A confident lawyer should not apologize for the fee schedule, nor should they feel they have to defend them. They should, however, explain that the fee is based on the lawyer’s best estimate of the time needed for your case based on the seriousness of the charges and your unique situation. If you cannot afford the services for the fees presented to you, be gracious and respectful, thank them for their time, and move on.
Inquire About Defenses, Resources, and Referrals
In securing quality criminal defense, innocence is not a prerequisite for representation. A zealous attorney will explain the defense strategy that might best fit your particular situation. You may not be able to avoid all consequences for your mistakes, but a dedicated, experienced attorney should be able to make those consequences less severe.
Defense teams with high success rates usually have access to professional investigators, independent labs, and expert witnesses in fields like crime scene reconstruction, ballistics, DNA, fingerprint and electronic evidence.
Ask for both professional and client references.
Hire legal representation if you face criminal charges and have questions or concerns about your legal rights. Every citizen deserves the best possible defense, and criminal defense lawyers are here to help.