If you’ve been charged with a criminal offense, it is in your best interest to seek skilled legal counsel immediately. Seemingly minor crimes can still result in a criminal record, and having a record can haunt you for years, decades, or even a lifetime.
When it comes to criminal defense, not all lawyers are created equal. The outcome of your case is largely dependent on having the right lawyer by your side. Read on for more information about choosing the best criminal lawyer for your unique situation.
What to Look for in a Defense Lawyer
Although the nature and severity of your crime will factor heavily into how your case is handled, any person charged with a crime should ensure that his/her lawyer meets all of the following criteria.
Experience with the Charges You are Facing
Hiring a lawyer who specializes in drunk driving may not be the best choice if you’ve been charged with embezzlement. Criminal law is complex and constantly evolving; it is essential to work with a lawyer who has extensive experience in the specific crime with which you’ve been charged. Some lawyers are focused on violent crimes, others on drug crimes, and still others on white-collar crimes.
Do your homework and consult with a lawyer who has a deep understanding of exactly what you are going through. Most law firms offer a free initial consultation; take advantage of it! You can and should ask questions to determine if the particular lawyer you are interviewing has the experience you need.
Asking lots of questions at your initial consultation also puts the lawyer’s personality on full display and gives you the opportunity to see how you interact together. Personal chemistry is a very important factor when choosing legal representation; if you don’t feel comfortable with your lawyer, the legal process is going to be unnecessarily long and painful, and the outcome is less likely to be favorable.
The best lawyer-client relationships are collaborative. When a client is involved in the decision-making process and trusts his/her lawyer, the relationship becomes more of a partnership, and the chances of a successful outcome increase dramatically. To determine if the lawyer you’re interviewing is right for you, ask yourself the following questions:
- Am I comfortable talking openly to my lawyer?
- If I don’t like the way something is being handled, do I feel comfortable saying so?
- Does my lawyer explain things in a manner that I can understand?
- Does my lawyer seem to genuinely concern about me and the outcome of my case?
- Does my lawyer seem trustworthy and of good character?
- Does my lawyer exude confidence?
Get Referrals and Research Potential Candidates
One of the best ways to find a good defense lawyer is to ask for referrals. If you know someone who has been in a similar situation, ask who they used for legal counsel and if it was a good experience. If their experience was particularly bad, you can cross that lawyer’s name off your list. Alternatively, if they sing their lawyer’s praises, make an appointment for a consultation.
But don’t stop there. Once you have gotten a referral, had an initial consultation, and determined that you are personally comfortable with a particular candidate, do some online digging. With the wealth of information available on the internet, there is no excuse to not do your homework. Choosing the right defense lawyer might be one of the most important decisions you will ever make. Check the state bar association website to see if the lawyer has a record of formal discipline, and search for reviews on Facebook, Yelp, and Google. Although one bad review shouldn’t necessarily preclude you from working with a particular lawyer, several bad reviews should be a red flag.
You also want to know that if your case moves to trial, your lawyer has confidence in the courtroom. In addition to specifically asking about courtroom experience, the lawyer’s appearance and demeanor can clue you in as to how they will perform in the courtroom. If they are neatly dressed, well spoken, and confident, these characteristics will bode well in a courtroom setting. If, on the other hand, the lawyer appears nervous or disheveled, his/her arguments may be less convincing to a judge and jury. Exceptions certainly exist; there has been more than one eccentric lawyer with an outstanding record in the courtroom, but confidence is generally the hallmark of any successful trial lawyer.
In addition to all of the above advice, it’s important that your lawyer can take direction from you. Although he/she will control certain aspects of your case, such as filing motions and calling witnesses, the big decisions—including whether to plead guilty or go to trial—are your call. Look for a lawyer who takes the time to get to know you and your goals, and who actively integrates your input into the legal strategy.
Listen to Your Gut
At the end of the day, the best gauge of whether or not a lawyer or firm is the right fit for you is your gut. Trust your instincts. Remember, you are interviewing the lawyer, not the other way around. Ultimately, this is your battle to fight, and you need the right lawyer by your side to win. If you’re looking for an experienced criminal lawyer, please contact the team at Wilson Criminal Defence.