Criminal

What to Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

There are some legal situations you can handle yourself, but facing criminal charges is not one of them. You’ll need a criminal defense lawyer to help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case. This overview provides tips for hiring the right attorney to help you defend yourself. 

Experience Matters 

No matter where you live, there are plenty of law firms in your area that handle criminal law cases. As you begin looking into the offices that offer the legal services you need, it’s important to focus your search on those attorneys with specialized experience. Just because a lawyer has criminal law experience, it doesn’t mean they have experience handling the specific charges you’re facing. For example, if you’re facing a DUI charge, you’ll want a lawyer with experience in handling that kind of criminal charge. An attorney with DUI experience will know the state’s DUI laws and how best to handle your defense. 

Communication Skills 

As you talk to the lawyer that you’re interested in hiring, pay attention to how they make you feel. They should speak fluidly and express ideas coherently without seeming awkward or uninformed. This is important because you’ll want someone who can present a compelling case in front of a jury. If you’re not convinced that the attorney can help your case, that’s a good sign that the lawyer won’t be able to convince a jury either. Someone who has been practicing law for several years should be able to speak with authority and charisma, so don’t feel timid about being selective in the lawyer you hire. 

Discuss Past Successes 

Once you’ve established that a criminal defense lawyer has experience handling your type of case, you’ll also want to get a sense of his success rate. You can evaluate the lawyer’s success by asking how many cases like yours they have handled in the past and asking how many of those cases they won in court. You should also ask how many cases were resolved with a plea bargain, or a dismissal of charges. 

This can help you determine how often the attorney lost a case, or arrived at an unsatisfactory conclusion for the client. When you compare these numbers, you’ll be able to gather an accurate impression of the quality of the services that lawyer provides. You should see a good mix of acquittals and plea bargains, because that will show the attorney is skilled at negotiating and at trial law. 

Research the Attorney’s History 

You can look at professional legal websites, your state’s bar association site, and consumer advocacy sites to learn more about the attorney’s past. Specifically, you’ll want to look for disciplinary actions that were enacted against the attorney over their conduct. If the bar association ever disciplined them, or if the law office has ever been sued for legal malpractice, you can take these as signs that the attorney isn’t ethical in their practice of law. 

You can take your research further by looking at reviews left online by past clients of the criminal law firm. You can find reviews for any lawyer on these same sites, or you can find them on Yelp!, Google, and other online sources. Reading client reviews can give you a better impression of the type of experience you can expect. While a few negative reviews are normal, a large number of negative reviews can suggest a problem with how the attorney interacts with clients. 

Find Out How Your Case Will Be Handled 

Finally, look at the size of the office and ask how many cases they typically handle at one time to ensure they can give your case the attention it deserves. Specifically, you’ll want to know how many people will be managing your case. You’ll also want to know whether the attorney will speak directly with you when you call, or whether you’ll be communicating through a paralegal. 

The size of the law office can also affect the rate you’ll pay, so be sure to discuss legal fees up front. You’ll want to know whether you’ll be charged a flat fee or an hourly rate so you can determine if that criminal defense lawyer can defend you without overextending your budget. If you don’t think you can afford that attorney, you should continue shopping for lawyers within your budget. A lawyer doesn’t have to be expensive to be good at his profession. 

The initial consultation you have with any criminal defense lawyer will help you evaluate the skills and quality of the attorney. While this is also an opportunity for the lawyer to evaluate your case, you shouldn’t be shy about asking questions that concern you. Considering your freedom is at stake, you should be sure to hire the attorney that’s best qualified to defend you.

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