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!
Navigating the maze of lawyers available to hire for a criminal case can be tricky
- 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?
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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