If you have a need to retain the services of a criminal defense attorney, it may be the most consequential decision that you make in your entire lifetime. When you hire an attorney, you are not just employing an attorney, but you are also hiring the person and the background. There are many factors to consider when you select a lawyer that will help you make the right decision. Here are some of the things that you should think about before you choose your criminal defense attorney.
Most importantly, you will want to hire a lawyer who has a solid reputation among their colleagues and in the legal community in general. Stated simply, in the legal community, perception is the reality. It follows that a lawyer is their reputation. A competent and professional lawyer will be thought of as such by their colleagues. You can get a sense of a lawyer’s reputation by asking their colleagues about them. In addition, there are reviews of a lawyer that are available in the public domain. These reviews can give you a sense of what it is like to work with the lawyer.
When you are seeking a lawyer, it is best to hire someone who specializes in the area of law that you need. When it comes to criminal law, you will want to find someone who is a dedicated criminal defense attorney. It is best not to hire a legal generalist for a matter as vitally important as a criminal defense. There are considerations that are specific to a criminal proceeding that a lawyer must know, and they learn these skills by practicing in the area every single day. Hiring a corporate attorney will not help you achieve the best result in a criminal matter.
Similar to the need to hire a specialist, you should also make sure to hire a lawyer with the right type of experience. There is no one-size-fits-all criminal defense lawyer. You could need a lawyer who specializes in white collar matters. Alternatively, you may require a lawyer who handles a different type of case, such as a DUI. Make sure that you know what type of criminal lawyer you are hiring before you sign the retainer agreement because one type of lawyer may not be able to handle your specific case.
A lawyer’s background may also be able to tell you something about the quality of the lawyer. Check the attorney’s educational pedigree and some of their professional qualifications and then read more about the attorney. While there are many good lawyers who graduate from lower-ranked law schools, you have a better chance of success when you retain a lawyer who excelled at a top law school.
If you are in the midst of a complicated matter that may require some negotiation with law enforcement, you may want a lawyer on your side who you know has some connections with those agencies. For example, a lawyer who formerly worked as a prosecutor may have some connections in the prosecutor’s office. If your attorney has worked with these offices before in any capacity, the prosecutor or law enforcement may be more willing to negotiate and deal with your attorney.
While criminal defense is not an area where you should seek to cut corners and costs, you also do not have an unlimited budget and do not want to emerge from any proceeding financially destitute. It is important to weigh the benefits of the lawyer versus the costs to retain that attorney. You should be conscious of the fact that you could run out of money during a long proceeding, and if that happens, you may be forced to seek new counsel.
An outgrowth of the consideration about cost, certain lawyers may have requirements of how their fees are paid. Each lawyer will require you to pay a retainer. Some lawyers may require a larger retainer up front that you will need to come up in order to hire the lawyer. The attorney may offer a payment plan that will make it easier to pay the legal fees as they arise. This will make it easier for you to keep your lawyer throughout the course of the proceeding.
You will have to interact routinely with your lawyer during the course of your proceeding. The lawyer explains the law to clients and acts as counselor and adviser. It is essential that you are comfortable with the lawyer and have some sort of rapport. A criminal proceeding is uncomfortable by nature and you will need a lawyer who will put you at ease as opposed to making your life even more difficult than it already is at this point.
One of the worst things that a lawyer can do is fail to return phone calls and emails. In fact, a lawyer is under a professional obligation to adhere to a certain level of responsiveness to their clients. You will be able to tell how responsive a lawyer is while you are vetting them. Ask point blank how long it takes a lawyer to respond to emails and phone calls. While it is unreasonable to always expect an immediate reply, a certain degree of responsiveness is expected.
Although it is not necessarily a make-or-break factor in choosing which lawyer to hire, the ability to get a read-out on your case without incurring a bill can be helpful. In addition, during a free consultation, you should be able to get a sense of how a lawyer approaches an issue and interacts with you. A consultation can enable the lawyer to gain your confidence and trust without charging you. This is almost like getting a free sample of legal advice.
When you make such an important decision, it is essential that you approach it critically and paying attention to all of the potential factors. Sometimes, the right lawyer can make a difference in the legal outcome of your case. Certainly, this is not a decision that you can make with your eyes closed. By weighing all of the factors, you can end up with the right lawyer for you.