Hiring a criminal defense lawyer is, without a doubt, a difficult pursuit. After all, you’re doing this during a trying time of your life. No one ever wants to be faced with the prospect of a criminal offense. But, once it’s right in front of you, you have no choice but to face the consequences of the crime you’re accused of.
Criminal offenses go into trial. Once you’re in court, you need a lawyer by your side. A criminal defense lawyer is going to be your best friend, who will work hard to give you a fair day in court. This is precisely why you should never skimp on your options when it comes to lawyers.
There will surely be many for you to choose from but not all of them have strong credentials. If you want to have the best possible outcome for your case, you need to settle for no less than the best. With that said, here are nine tips to guide you when choosing a criminal defense lawyer.
Consider Your Budget
First on this list is the most important consideration: your budget. While lawyers come at a price, this doesn’t mean every single lawyer out there is going to burn a hole in your budget. If you go through a thorough search, you’re going to find expert lawyers with a reasonable price.
So, don’t feel compelled to go over budget. Remember that in the practice of profession, the price doesn’t always equate to quality of service. It’s on you to weigh the lawyer’s qualifications and their fees.
While you’re at it, you may also want to ask about how they structure their fee arrangements. Do they bill by the hour? Or, will you be charged at a fixed rate? The choice is in your hands, it will all depend on how much you’re willing to pay for a lawyer.
Ask Whether Or Not They’ve Handled Similar Cases
It’s another advantage for you if you know the lawyer you’re keen on hiring has already handled similar cases as yours. This means the circumstances are similar, and so are the sanctions and penalties, too. This is important, as there’s quite a wide range of crimes that can be committed, one of which is discussed in this recommended reading.
When the lawyer has handled cases like yours, the procedure won’t be new to them. They know what defenses they can bring in court to strengthen your case or to enable you to have fair representation. With an experienced lawyer, you may even have a more favorable outcome or settlement out of your case.
It’s a different scenario when a lawyer is facing a specific case for the very first time, especially for specialized ones like medical malpractice, for instance. They will have to gather more information about its possible defenses and problem areas. The more cases like yours they have handled, the more experience they have. This allows your lawyer to also be confident in court, certain that they’re equipped with all the knowledge they need to represent you well.
Choose A Lawyer That Specializes On Criminal Law
This third tip may sound redundant. But there are so many lawyers who practice all fields and don’t just focus on criminal law per se. Before considering those lawyers, it is worth noting that it’s a rather better choice to choose a lawyer that specializes in criminal law.
The reason for this narrows down to expertise. When a lawyer focuses on criminal law, it means they’re well versed about criminal law from A to Z. They eat criminal cases for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so they’ve got quite a broad range of knowledge about those cases.
You can rest assure that you’re in good hands, because your lawyer focuses on criminal law cases. Most importantly, such lawyers are up-to-date with any changes in legislation, fines, penalties, and other circulars released on criminal law-related matters.
Inquire About Their Lines Of Communication
While it’s wrong for clients to demand for a lawyer’s personal number or social media details, it’s not wrong to ask their available lines of communication. When you have information about this, you can ascertain it yourself whether or not that particular lawyer will be easy to deal with and reach out to.
This is a matter of responsiveness. Even if it’s their secretary you’re talking to, that’s still better than not having anyone to reach out to at all. No matter how busy a lawyer may be, they should still communicate with their clients regularly. In fact, they should be as responsive as possible to any concerns or questions you may have. If not, miscommunication and lack of updates about your case could lead to you being clueless on your trial day.
Assess Their Personality
No matter how impressive the credentials of a particular lawyer may be, if their overall personal character reputation is poor, then that’s not going to be good for you at all. You need to have a lawyer that’s pleasing and amicable to meet with. If not, then you’re only going to dread your meetings with them.
Facing a criminal charge is already a stressful situation in itself. Your chosen criminal defense lawyer shouldn’t add up to that stress you’re feeling. You’ll want to have a good client-lawyer relationship with your lawyer. This means your lawyer should see you as a partner in the decision-making process.
Other indications of a criminal defense lawyer with a pleasing personality also include:
- The lawyer appears capable of earning the trust and respect of prosecutors, judges, and other legal professionals;
- The lawyer is someone you can talk openly to;
- The lawyer is honest and gives important and detailed information about your case.
- The lawyer shows profound concern in your predicament, not just the pay they’re going to receive as a part of their job.
Make Sure They’re Familiar With Local Courts
Familiarity with local courts is another factor that can build up your lawyer’s confidence. Every courthouse is different. So, it’s a plus if you have a seasoned criminal defense lawyer who is already familiar with the ins and outs of your courtroom.
With that familiarity, your criminal defense lawyer will no longer experience that stress on the first hearing day finding their way around the courts.
Most importantly, familiarity with the local courts means the lawyer is also familiar with the judge’s personality. They know how to deal with the judge for a more pleasant and smooth-sailing hearing.
If you know of anyone in your network or circle who’s hired a criminal defense lawyer in the past, use that information to your advantage as well. Getting referrals from those who have experience hiring one can ensure you’re choosing from among a list of highly-recommended lawyers.
When you have your own list, ask your friends too what their experience may have been like with that lawyer. If it has been quite unpleasant, then you can tick that lawyer off your list. As for the lawyers with names whom your sources all speak praises of, you can start setting appointments with them as well.
Go Through The Reviews And Feedback
Many lawyers today will have a website and a social media page. These are all part of their marketing campaigns, for them to reach more clients. If you don’t have a personal network of friends and connections who can give you honest feedback on certain local lawyers, your best bet now is to go through the reviews and feedback section.
Look out for any red flags that warn you not to hire that lawyer. Be mindful too of praises that are given by anonymous names. Those might be dummy accounts meant to uplift a lawyer’s reputation. As much as possible, look for detailed reviews made by individuals with existing, active social media accounts.
The more positive feedback they have, the better the outcome will likely be for your case.
Ask Who Will Be Handling Your Case
If you’re keen to have a particular lawyer as the only one to handle your case, then it’s very important to ask who will be handling your case. Especially when that lawyer is from a law firm, chances are your case will be given to whichever lawyer is available. That way, the caseload can be well distributed. If you don’t ask about whether or not that lawyer is that one to handle your case, you may be surprised later when a different lawyer turns up.
As you have read, hiring a criminal defense lawyer is a long and thorough process. Yes, you may be pressed by time to find one right away. But this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t search as thoroughly as possible. Facing a criminal charge is a serious thing to go through. Hence, you will need the best representation possible. Should you ever find the need to hire one, the tips above will help ensure your chosen criminal defense lawyer is no less than the most qualified for your case.