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Avoid the pitfalls of hiring the wrong attorney; learn how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer

Encountering the criminal justice system can be one of the most challenging and stressful periods of your life.  Selecting the right criminal defense lawyer for yourself or a friend or family member can be one of the most difficult parts of any criminal investigation, arrest or charges. Likewise, it stands out as easily the most vital. It is important that you locate a skillful and respectable lawyer whom you can trust to work with during. There are a few things to consider when searching for a lawyer.  After reading these 7 tips, you should be ready to hire a great criminal defense lawyer!

hire a great criminal defense attorney

Navigating the maze of lawyers available to hire for a criminal case can be tricky



  1. Be Cautious about “Top Search Results” and Flashy Marketing

Many internet marketing companies tell lawyers that they will “guarantee their website to be on the first page of Google.”

An internet search simply won’t do.  Lawyers today pay for something called “SEO” or Search Engine Optimization.  What SEO does is it tricks the Google ranking program, known as its algorithm, into putting their site at or near first.  It is the same as when lawyers used to name their practices AAA Legal Services just so that they could be at the front of the Yellow Pages.  Whether a lawyer’s page comes up high in a google search tells you nothing about their skill.  In fact, if they need to push their website up in search results – watch out!   They may not have the skill or reputation to get clients any other way!

Try not to be attracted by garish promoting plans or guarantees of some achievement. In fact, criminal defense lawyers are prohibited by ethics rules from guaranteeing any result.  Be suspicious of any lawyer who ensures you a particular result in a criminal case.  Consider this: In Ventura, California, if you plead guilty to a DUI, you get one of the two charges dismissed.  In fact, some lawyers advertise that they GUARANTEE they can get a charge dismissed for you.  Well of course they can!  You could get the charge dismissed by representing yourself!  Accordingly, be wary of guarantees.  A lawyer’s work and effort should speak for itself.

Be careful about lawyers who need a lot of cash in advance to handle a case just through beginning procedures.  Fees should be laid out in advance and are required to be in writing if the total value of the contract is expected to exceed $1,000.00.  A lawyer is required to give you a copy of this contract.

Don’t just use Google to search for “criminal defense lawyers” or “criminal lawyers” or “medical marijuana defense attorneys in Ventura.”  Once you find a few that you may be interested in calling, google their names separately.  Does more than their website show up?  Do you see State Bar Discipline?  Are their positive or negative reviews?  Is there even MORE advertising?

Legal cases often attract media attention.  Typically any lawyer that has practiced for a few years will have some newspaper articles about his or her cases.  Read them.  Winning or losing is not necessarily important, it is how strong the defense was.  Some cases have confessions, video evidence and strong witnesses.  So look in the article for how hard the defense fought, or if they were creative, or whether they got a good sentence for the client.

After a full internet search, you should have cut through much of the flash and are ready to dive into the substance.  You’ve now completed the first step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

   2.  Specialist Agencies/Bar affiliations

First, you can look for a lawyer who practices in the particular field that you need.  There are Criminal Law Specialists, as certified by the State Bar of California’s Board of Legal Specialization.  These lawyers have passed an additional test and have been subject to review by Judges, prosecutors, their peers and a review panel.  Often you will determine that this is the best attorney for you, as they are backed by the State Bar.

Some lawyers handle all manner of cases and only do criminal defense sometimes.  Sometimes, a lawyer will say he or she  represents criminal defendants but has not handled a criminal case in years – – or ever!

If you are accused of a wrongdoing that could end up with you having a criminal record, you require somebody who is an accomplished and legitimate master of the courtroom. There are a few ways you can start your quest for the lawyer who will best address your issues. As mentioned above, you can go to the State Bar website and search for Certified Specialists in your area.  You can also call the local bar associations and ask for referrals to trusted counsel.

Often the best way to find a lawyer is to request a referral from someone that has used one in the past and was satisfied with the work that attorney performed.

You’ve now completed the second step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

     3. Excellent Communication Skills

Developing an attorney client relationship is the most critical part of defending your case as it progresses through the court system.  This point is simple: Does your lawyer listen to you?  Did the lawyer answer all of your questions at the first meeting?  Did he or she take time to explain how legal proceedings work and what to expect when you show up for court?  Did you discuss strategy or goals?  Will you be able to speak with the attorney, and not his or her staff, when you have a question?  How long can you expect it to take for the attorney to call you back?

Did you leave the meeting feeling rushed or were you made to feel as though your case was already important to the attorney?

Hire a great criminal defense attorney

Perhaps most importantly – will the attorney be in court for every one of your court dates, or will he or she send a “stand in”?  Will the attorney assign the case to a junior associate and not work on your case?

Moreover, do you feel as though the attorney can reasonably communicate your needs and wants to the prosecutor and judge?  Can he or she be forceful when needed and gentle when needed?

Does the attorney appear ethical?  Believe it or not, some attorneys ask clients to fabricate witnesses and testimony.  If a lawyer is willing to be dishonest with the court, the lawyer is willing to be dishonest with you.

You’ve now completed the third step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

     4.  The Lawyer’s Experience 

Some lawyers specialize in particular areas of criminal defense.  For example, some lawyers handle DUI cases exclusively.  This is great if you have a DUI, but isn’t helpful if you have an assault case.

Ask the lawyer who you are interviewing what their experience is.  Discuss other cases they have handled and what the results were.  Have they ever tried a murder case all the way through jury verdict?  That will tell you a lot about the lawyer’s experience right there.  When a lawyer has handled a murder case from beginning to end, that lawyer will often possess all the skills necessary to go to court on your case.

When was the last jury trial the lawyer did?  How many cases has the lawyer ever handled?  How many cases do they handle at any one time?  A lawyer that takes too many cases at any one time cannot give you enough attention.

You’ve now completed the fourth step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

  1. Potential expenses the case

The expense of a lawyer should be determined by how complex a case is. Lawyers will ordinarily request a retainer upfront.  It is important to ask what the fee covers and what it does not cover.  Most felony retainers, for example, cover the period from arraignment to a preliminary hearing and a second contract with a second retainer is often needed for the period from the preliminary hearing through trial.   Criminal case are ordinarily charged by a flat fee, meaning that there is no hourly charge.  Be careful, as some lawyers charge an initial flat fee and then try to charge an hourly fee thereafter.  This will add great expense to the case.

Some lawyers charge a fee from the beginning of the case to the beginning of trial or even through trial.  This is the standard for misdemeanor cases, but it tends to be a great bonus if you can secure that contract in a felony case.  It shows that the lawyer has a commitment to the case that will endure past the initial stages.

Perhaps the most important thing to note is this: Lawyers that advertise heavily and are much cheaper than other lawyers tend to have so many cases that they cannot spend enough time on your case, nor can they give your case the attention it deserves.  Beware of this.  In law, as in other areas, you get what you pay for.  Your criminal defense lawyer may be the most important expenditure of money you ever make.  Cutting corners on costs may cost you more in terms of your freedom than the money savings is worth.

You’ve now completed the first step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

  1. The Consultation Process

It is best to have a face to face meeting to figure out whether you feel comfortable with the lawyer. Meet the legal counselor and see if you can trust in his or her abilities.  Ask about a plan for your case.  Discuss your goals.  It is always wise to meet with more than one lawyer to ensure you are selecting the best one for you.

Hiire a great criminal defense attorney

One thing that is important to look out for is a lawyer that oversells himself or herself.  Some lawyers claim to be ex-District Attorneys and profess to have a special relationship with the prosecution.  First, this implies that special “favors” are done behind the scenes.  This simply isn’t the case.  Moreover, it is a direct statement that prosecutors are “crooked.”  They can lost their jobs by doing “favors” for lawyers.  Simply put, no one gets special treatment simply because of an out of court friendship with a prosecutor.

Worse yet, some lawyers claim that because they know the judges that they will get you a special deal.  Once again, this implies that judges are “crooked” and that they are willing to risk their careers to do a favor on every case just because they know  an attorney.  That simply isn’t the case.

Additionally, once a lawyer has been around a courthouse long enough, they know all the judges and prosecutors anyway.  The idea that judges would do one person a favor isn’t well taken in that if judges and prosecutors do a favor for one person they are likely to do it for everyone they have come to know well over the years.  Accordingly, taking this to its logical conclusion, judges and prosecutors would be doing favors on every case for everyone that they are friends with.  That is a ridiculous idea.  It simply isn’t true.

Beware of someone that claims that they will get special favors.

Another thing to consider is that ex-prosecutors used to try to lock defendants up.  Lawyers that have been defense attorneys their whole careers have never worked to incarcerate individuals accused of crimes. Why would you hire someone who at one time worked hard to jail someone for the very crime for which you or your loved one is now being accused? Is that person one who believes in you and your case? Do they truly care about your rights? Did they care about them when they used to tell the judge to lock someone just like you up?

You’ve now completed the sixth step in how to hire a great criminal defense lawyer.

  1. Make sure to impart your data to Lawyer

Once you tell your lawyer what you believe the facts are in your particular case, ask the lawyer how he or she would approach your case.  Together, you should try to find out as much information as you can to gain the best result.  This will often mean gathering witnesses and documents, as well as other data.  Is your lawyer familiar with changing technology?  Many cases today can be won by using computers and technology to prove a defendant not guilty of a crime.  Using technology is often part of developing a creative defense that may win your case.

The more data you can offer a criminal defense attorney, the more precisely the legal counselor can offer to speak to you.

In a nutshell it is safe to say make an effort not to rush the choice of a lawyer. Find the best attorney you can.  Give yourself an opportunity to think about your choices. You ought to feel comfortable with the lawyer’s experience, reputation and your ability to communicate with him or her. That way you can be confident that your lawyer can get you the best result for your case.



Rachel Stinson Dubai Legal Blog tips for selecting criminal defense attorneys lawyers

Blogger Rachel Stinson

About The Author

Rachel Stinson has always had a knack for writing, food, fashion, and travel. Blogging has combined all four for her with an added bonus of bringing her enthusiastic audiences. Lately she has been working with Dubai law firms where she expresses her opinions in an unhesitating, engaging manner for all types of legal matters about Law Firms in Dubai like AlHanaee, for example.  This is her first foray into blogging about American lawyers, and she has partnered with Jay Leiderman Law to bring the reader helpful information about how to select the right criminal lawyer.


(Photo credits: Shutterstock)

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Jay Leiderman Jay Leiderman Law
Fighting the Man for You

Criminal Defense Attorney Jay Leiderman

When searching for the right attorney, it is often the worst time in your life. Finding a good one, and the right one for you, is a daunting task. At Jay Leiderman Law, we have proven results over years of practice, and we are uniquely qualified to represent you in your time of need. Jay Leiderman Law believes that they are the right firm for you for many, many reasons.

The Law Offices of Jay Leiderman looks forward to assisting you in your time of need. We offer FREE consultations to all prospective clients.

Address & Contact Information

Jay Leiderman Law
770 County Square Drive Suite 101
Ventura, California 93003

Tel: (805) 654-0200
Fax: (805) 654-0280

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  • Jade Brunet says:

    I am interested to increase my knowledge about criminal defense attorneys. After reading the article, I understand that the expense of the lawyer depends on the complexity of the case. Another thing to look at would be hiring someone who is genuine and really there to help.

  • My cousin is having charges brought up against her. I have been trying to help her find a good defence attorney. I really like the idea of finding a lawyer that has handled similar cases.

  • Your third tip is something that I think is really important. Communicating well is very important, especially when you remember that a lawyer is supposed to be your advocate. I happen to be the kind of person that has a hard time developing relationships quickly with strangers, so I will be paying close attention to your tips. Thank you for all of the applicable legal advice!

  • Jen Pack says:

    I think that it is important to have a good lawyer no matter your situation, but I think that it is extremely crucial in the cases of criminal activity. I like the tip you give of looking for a lawyer who has great communication skills and takes the time to explain details to you. It would probably also be wise to find someone who has reliable reviews and testimonials from former clients.

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  • I like working with people who have good communication skills. That way, I don’t have to worry about things becoming misconstrued. At least for the most part. I think good communication can really help to block out any confusion, and it would be a smart idea to hire an attorney who has developed those skills!

  • Sarah Smith says:

    My brother needs to get a criminal defense attorney. Thanks for the advice about finding a lawyer who practices in the specific field that you need. Another thing to consider is finding a lawyer that you get along with.

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  • Megan Earl says:

    I totally agree that one of the hardest parts of any legal case if selecting the right lawyer. There are so many good ones out there, you know? I think one of the most important things is to, like you said, find a lawyer who practices in your specific field. That’s the best way to get the help you need! My sister has been looking for a lawyer, and I’ve been trying to help her. I think we are finally starting to narrow the search down.

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  • I like the recommendation to make sure the lawyer doesn’t oversell him or herself. I think this could be a good way of making sure they are able to deliver on things they say. It’s definitely something I’ll have to remember when looking to hire an attorney as I don’t want to have any surprises or disappointments. Thanks for the post!

  • I loved your fourth point about finding someone that specifically deals with your type of case. I have found out that those who specialize tend to do better. I’m trying to find a local traffic violation lawyer.

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    As to point one about SEO, it is true that advertising does not equal a good attorney. I got sold on an attorney that I saw on page one of Google and it was terrible. Word of mouth and personal recommendation is the way to go and THEN you look at the website and GOOGLE INDEPENDENTLY! OF course their website is going to say how great they are. But reviews and articles about their cases are what count!

    I see that Jay Leiderman has several articles about his work:

  • q says:

    Communication is key to a relationship with an attorney.

  • Archie says:

    Don’t get sucked in by slick advertising! Agree with Dog.

  • Jane says:

    Thanks for the very informative post. I’m looking for a lawyer in the UK and I’ll have an easier time now.

  • Widget says:

    Each of these 7 tip s helps a lot! Thanks!

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    I found themselves doing my homework and getting some better lawyers than I could have.

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    I had a bad lawyer and it was a nightmare. I selected her through her false advertising.

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  • else says:

    Faith in your lawyer to do the best job for you is critical! Thanks for these 7 tips!

  • Red Hackers Fan says:

    Since the purpose of a business is to make money, it would behoove the lawyer to do so. Watch out for SEO advertising. I agree – word of mouth and google to make sure they have a solid reputation.

  • Archie says:

    After just a little research on these issues, I found that your post hit the nail on the head! Communication is key!

  • Tyler says:

    I like what this article recommends about focusing on the lawyer’s experience. I think it could be beneficial to have a lawyer who specializes and has a lot of practice in one area of practice. It’s something to keep in mind in case I ever find myself needing a lawyer to help with a case. Thanks for the post!

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    • I do not work in Dubai. Rachel Stinson, who wrote the post, lives and works there and I believe she wrote content for that Dubai law firm website. You can contact her. Her information is at the bottom of the post.

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  • Sarah Smith says:

    My brother needs to get a criminal defense attorney. I agree that you should get an attorney that is experienced in the area that you need such as DUI. Something else to consider is to get an attorney that you like and get along with.

  • I totally agree with communication being a key indicator of a good attorney! Proper and clear communication between attorney and defendant is vital. You want to make sure you’re both on the same page, and that all the details of the case are on the table. I really love that you mention noticing if you felt your case was important to the attorney. You won’t feel comfortable or confident in your case if your attorney does not seem to care about your case.

  • Jade Brunet says:

    I am happy to have found this information concerning criminal defense attorneys. It is good to know that excellent communication skills should be an attribute that a good lawyer should possess. The attorney should be willing to listen. Something else to consider would be to find a lawyer that has dealt with cases similar to yours to know that he or she is well experienced.

  • Marie Watson says:

    Jay, I really like that you mention choosing someone with “excellent communication skills.” You make a good point about how the attorney-client relationship is the most crucial part of defending your case. Since criminal cases usually take time, I would want to make sure I hire someone I cam comfortable around and can get along with. My sister was recently arrested, so I will have to remind her to choose an attorney who she can feel comfortable with.

  • Baxter Abel says:

    I appreciate what you said about searching for any news articles and reports about the past cases a criminal defense attorney has defended in order to see how strong their defense was. I’ve never thought of that before! I’ve heard that it’s impossible for defense attorneys to have a 100% win rate, is that true? Thanks for the tips! I’ll be using them the next time I’m in need of a defense attorney.

  • I really liked your advice to consider the lawyer’s experience. There are a lot of people that don’t understand how someone’s experience can make a difference when it comes to a case. Do you have any other tips about finding a good lawyer for a criminal defense case? I’m really trying to find a good one for my case, but I don’t know where to begin my search.

  • Ryan says:

    Tip number 4 is by far the most important. A lawyers experience in the court room is the key to wiining a case. My go-to firm is Schiller and Pittenger. They have loads of experience and serve all over New Jersey and New York.

  • Kate Hansen says:

    My sister is going to trial soon and our biggest concern is hiring a lawyer that can help her get the best possible outcome. I like how you suggest to find an attorney that has excellent communication skills. I know my sister is nervous about going to trial and having a lawyer that can let her know what’s going on and can answer all her questions will help her feel calm going into the trial.

  • My sister is in some trouble and needs to hire an attorney that can help her out of it. I really appreciate your tip about taking into account the lawyer’s experience when you choose a lawyer. If you can find a lawyer with lots of wins on their record, I would imagine that your chances of having a favorable outcome is much better.

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  • Finn Stewart says:

    It’s interesting how you point out that developing an attorney client relationship is the most critical part of defending your case as it progresses through a court system. I would imagine that talking to an attorney at length before you hire them would help you figure out if you could form a good relationship with them. My little brother is looking for a criminal defense attorney because he got himself into some trouble, so I’ll have to pass this along to him.

  • Cindy Tesler says:

    You also mention to not be attracted to the promotions or guarantees that you might come across for a criminal attorney and do your own research. You also mention choosing a lawyer that practices in the particular field that you need. I think it’s a good idea to choose a criminal lawyer that you feel comfortable around so that you can open up to them and get the best outcome possible.

  • Jalu Sakti says:

    Communication skills really are such a big deal when it comes to hiring a criminal defense attorney — I agree with you on that! If you can find an attorney that listens to you and tries to find solutions based off of your needs, you will be much better off in the long run. My older brother is looking for a criminal defense lawyer, right now. I’ll have to help him find one that communicates with him well.

  • Scott says:

    Very useful article. I didn’t realize that I should be cautious of hiring a lawyer that will need a lot of money in advance. I can see why this would be something to watch out for. I think that someone wouldn’t know how much time the case will take. So, they wouldn’t know how much they’ll need to be paid.

  • Hii,

    An experienced defense lawyer would judge the conditions and charges you are facing and give you the best advice so that you can get rid of the charges as soon as possible.

    Your post gives me some valuable information that I needed for my case. Your post is easily understandable and an the viewer can get the maximum information

  • Association of Federal Defense Attorneys
    The Association of Federal Defense Attorneys: members have access to a newsletter, research materials, a document library, information about training, and legislative advocacy work. One day pass available for new users. Log-in allows users to contribute to the “Shout Box,” which is viewed by other members who are logged on.

  • I agree that a good defense attorney will have good communications skills. I would imagine that finding someone who will clearly explain your case would be really important. This would probably also mean that you could find someone who is able to provide you with a faulty service.

  • john Mahoney says:

    A friend of mine recently got a DUI. I didn’t realize that it is a good idea to ask the lawyer you want to hire how he or she would approach your case, I can see why this would define the good lawyer for you. I will make sure my friend knows this so h can find a good lawyer.

  • This is some really good information about criminal defense lawyers. It does seem like a good idea to do good research and not just go with the first lawyer on a google search. It might also help you find a lawyer who fits better with you.

  • Braden Bills says:

    It makes sense that you would want to get a good lawyer. This is especially true if you got pulled over for something like DUI. It’s important to ensure that your sentence isn’t too punishing!

  • Ben Allen says:

    I appreciate the tips on hiring a good criminal defense lawyer. I agree that you have to be cautious about hiring just the top search results when you google it, just because they are at the top it doesn’t mean they are automatically the best. My good friend got a DUI and is looking for an attorney, I will be sure to share this with him.

  • I agree that when you are looking for a DUI lawyer you would need someone with excellent communication skills. I would imagine that this would allow you to be able to discuss your case clearly and allow you to get good results. My sister in law is looking for a defense lawyer so she’ll have to remember to pick one with good communication skills.

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  • Jalu Sakti says:

    I’m so glad you talked about communication skills. I guess I never realized just how important the lawyer-client relationship is, but you helped me see that it is a must. Open communication is better for everyone. You must know what is going on with your case, and your lawyer has to know the details of what happened. I’ll have to help my sister find a lawyer that is good at communicating with her — she is not so good at doing it on her own.

  • I agree that a lawyer’s experience should influence your decision when hiring defense counsel. I would imagine that it would be important to find someone who is experienced in criminal defense cases to represent you. My sister is in some legal trouble so when she finds a defense lawyer she’ll have to find someone who is very experienced to represent her.

  • B. McKinney says:

    Good information. I wish people were required to read this in it’s entirety before hiring the best advertised lawyers for the worse results.

  • john Mahoney says:

    I agree that when it comes to getting referrals it ios best to ask someone who has gone through the same process you are facing. I can see how this would not only help you get a good lawyer but it would also help the lawyer get more people to help. I would want to have a couple of options and then pick the best lawyer to help me with my case.

  • That’s very interesting that some attorneys will ask clients to fabricate witnesses and testimony. I’ve heard that the best attorneys, however, are dedicated to telling the truth and being honest with you and with the court. I’ll have to keep this information in mind if I ever need to hire a criminal defense attorney.

  • JoshQ says:

    Nice piece of valuable information here. Thank you for sharing. Just to add up, word-of-mouth referrals are not a lost way to find an attorney. Speak to your Facebook friends, business acquaintances, and family to see if anyone has been represented by a lawyer who works in personal Injury law. You may be surprised at the amount of referrals you get.


  • Sarah Smith says:

    My sister needs to get an attorney to help her in a DUI case. Getting an attorney that is experienced and specializes in a particular area is a smart idea so that you can get the best help possible. My suggestion would be to get an attorney that you are comfortable with and like, so that you are more likely to trust them and follow their advice.

  • Thanks for the information about criminal defense lawyers. I like how you pointed out that excellent communication skills are a must. If I were working with a lawyer, I would want them to listen to me, no matter what.

  • Thank you for all this great information about choosing a criminal defense attorney. One thing that really stood out to me is that you say to ask the lawyer about their experience. It would be nice to know that they have worked with others that have had similar cases to your own.

  • Adrienne says:

    Love your list. I’d say that it’s definitely true to avoid an attorney who tries to tell you he can buy you the moon and more, etc. You want someone who will give you the lowdown on what you can really expect from your case.

  • I agree that it’s important that you find a criminal defense lawyer that has great communication skills. This is important not only for the case, but for you to feel like you can trust your lawyer. You should feel like you can communicate your concerns and expectations clearly which helps both you and your lawyer.

  • LNWeaver says:

    I like your tip to have a face to face meeting. That way you can see first hand what lawyer can do for you. My friend is getting a DUI and I’ll be sure to tell him to look for a lawyer.

  • Alice Jones says:

    I believe finding a lawyer that has great communication skills is very important to consider when hiring a lawyer. You should want a lawyer that is able to explain how the legal process works for your particular case. If such a serious situation as a criminal court case, you should feel comfortable with what’s going around you, and hiring a well communicating lawyer will do that.

  • Frost says:

    A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer. Robert Frost

  • Sharron May says:

    This was an awesome and helpful article.Thank you very much to everyone who contributed their advice and knowledge.

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