Questions to Ask When Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer
For most people, criminal law is something outside of their daily real-life bubble. They may have never interacted with the criminal justice system, maybe even never been stopped for a traffic violation. All they’ve “learned” is from watching TV shows and movies, or perhaps what they’ve heard others talk about.
When a person is suddenly involved in a legal incident or charged with a criminal act at any level, it can be a rude awakening. The criminal justice system is huge, with multiple layers of complexity. It’s not a place to navigate on your own, particularly when your rights and freedoms are literally at stake.
The best thing to do is to take the right actions to best protect your rights and freedoms, and that includes finding a qualified criminal defense lawyer to be your advocate and protector. With many choices of law firms and particular lawyers, you have decisions to make. Let’s walk through some of the questions you should ask to help find a right-fit lawyer for your circumstances.
1.) Is criminal law their main practice area?
Lawyers have years of training in legal principles and laws in a particular jurisdiction where they practice law. But it’s important to confirm that the law firm and its attorneys you’re thinking about hiring are focused on criminal law. You need a lawyer who knows all the ins and outs of defending those who have been accused of your particular criminal act. Only this type of lawyer has the experience in the criminal court processes and procedures, as well as the people involved in such cases (the police department, the investigators, the tactics used by law enforcement, the court system and personnel, etc.).
Beyond working in criminal law, does the lawyer you’re considering have direct experience in your particular criminal charge? Ideally, you’ll choose a lawyer who has handled a number of similar cases and truly knows all the facets involved.
2.) How important will your case be to that lawyer?
To you, your case is everything. Your entire life is on the line: Money, freedom, reputation, job, and family. You need to know that your chosen lawyer is ready and able to provide the guidance, services, and support needed to handle your case to create the best outcome possible. Your lawyer needs to be accessible and available to answer your questions and lead your defense from the very beginning.
3.) How capable is the law firm in criminal defense?
A lawyer, in the end, is a single individual who requires the support of a team. That includes an office with legal researchers, other attorneys who can share their expertise regarding your case, and case managers who help facilitate the mechanics of your case. They need to have outside contacts for any needed investigation work and expert testimonials. When you call the office, you need to be able to reach a live person who is familiar with your case and can answer your questions.
4.) What is the reputation of the lawyer and the firm?
They say reputation is everything, and it is so true for the lawyer you’re considering. Take time to research your lawyer and law firm. Check reputable review sites to read what actual past clients have said about how their cases were handled:
- Was the lawyer or case manager accessible?
- Were phone calls and emails returned promptly?
- Did the clients feel as though they were well represented?
- Did the lawyer do a good job of explaining the legal process in an understandable way?
- Did the law firm have systems in place to make the process as good as it could be, given the circumstances?
- Does the lawyer have particular accreditations and awards in defending those charged with a crime?
Be sure to look at law firm websites for client reviews and video testimonials.
5.) Are you a right-fit client?
It’s a fair, and needed, discussion to have. Ask the attorney if he/she knows with certainty that your criminal defense case is one that he/she is fully knowledgeable about, has the desire and time to well represent you, and is affordable to you. Yes, discuss the financial commitment required to create your defense. Ask about payment plans or assistance that can make it manageable for you.
Ask yourself, can you see yourself working with this lawyer? Do you have a good feeling about what you’ve discussed and how you interact?
When an individual is charged with a crime, guilty or not, finding solid legal representation is the most important first step to take. Do not try to navigate this complex legal system yourself; to do so will likely not create the best possible outcome. Doing research and asking questions is vital to choosing a criminal defense attorney who can best protect your legal rights and create the best ultimate outcome.