After being arrested, a person has a short window of time to make the most important decision about their criminal case: who to trust to represent him or her. Finding the right attorney is not only about finding the lawyer who will get the best result for you. It is also important to find a lawyer who will meet your needs while the case advances toward its final disposition. In other words, while the destination is important, the journey can be just as critical.
Not every person desires the same kind of attention from their attorney. Some individuals want to be informed every step of the way, while others prefer to hear from their attorney as infrequently as possible. First, you should determine the kind of representation you are looking for and then discern if the attorney can give you what you need.
The best way to start the selection process is to do your research. There are various websites where you can find reviews on attorneys written by former clients. Visit the website for the attorney and their law firm. If you know anyone in the legal community (police officers, lawyers, courtroom clerks, or judges) ask around for a recommendation or their honest opinion. Take advantage of the various resources available to narrow your search.
The first question to ask when deciding who to hire is if the attorney has experience handling the charges you are facing. I have often seen attorneys stepping in on criminal case as a “favor” to a family friend or former client when their area of expertise is really in a field completely unrelated to criminal law. Unfortunately, this is not a favor at all. While the idea of having attorney services at little to no cost is appealing, it is wise to remember the adage, “you get what you pay for.” Each practice of law is nuanced and subject to regional rules and customs. An attorney whose expertise is not in criminal defense may cost you dearly in the end.
2. Personal Connection
Many clients look for a personal connection with their attorney. The most important part of the attorney-client relationship is the confidence and trust each person has for the other. If a client is keeping pertinent information from their attorney out of embarrassment or a misguided belief it will help their case, then the client is handicapping their attorney at the start of the case. Just as importantly, the more an attorney knows about the client, the more the attorney can personalize the case to a prosecutor, judge or a jury. Having a personal connection with your attorney can help to avoid the kind of pitfalls that can occur when a client does not feel comfortable telling their attorney all the important facts of the case.
One of the biggest complaints people make about attorneys is their inability to get the attorney on the phone. When meeting with your attorney ask him or her how you will be communicating with one another. Will you be calling their office and leaving a message with their secretary? Or will you be able to call, text, or email with your attorney? What is the expected turn-around time after you leave a message? When you conduct your initial search, pay close attention to what former clients have to say about the attorney’s communication.
As your advocate, your attorney is representing you and your interests in the courtroom. Are you confident your attorney will exude the professionalism and polish with which you want the court to hear your case? The care with which the attorney presents and carries his or herself is important because that is the way the attorney will present your defense to the district attorney, judge, and possibly a jury.
While most attorneys know not to guarantee any results, be very wary if an attorney makes any promises regarding an outcome. This is especially important in a criminal case. The attorney has not yet reviewed the prosecution’s evidence. If an attorney appears to be telling you everything you want to hear, take a moment to evaluate whether or not it sounds too good to be true.
Choose the Right Attorney For You
In the end, it is often best to listen to and trust your intuition. Make the right decision for yourself. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney questions. Criminal defense attorneys are unlike all other attorneys. They have the privilege and the burden of protecting the freedom of their clients.