A criminal defense attorney must be intellectually strong, and expert in the subtleties of the criminal law.
There are many law schools in this country. Some enjoy national reputations; others are known only in a particular locality. The law schools with a national reputation tend to be more selective than local or regional law schools. If you want an attorney who is intellectually powerful, consider choosing an attorney who graduated from one of the nation's leading law schools.
An effective criminal defense attorney must be one who devotes all or substantially all of his or her law practice to the field of criminal defense.
Attorneys in this country are not licensed by specialty. However, truly excellent attorneys have found it advantageous to emphasize practice in a particular area of the law. Some attorneys focus on criminal defense; others focus their practice on family law, business law, personal injury law, or corporate law. If you want an attorney to defend you on a criminal matter, you should seek an attorney who devotes all or substantially all of his or her practice to the defense of persons accused of criminal charges.
A truly excellent criminal defense attorney associates with other criminal defense attorneys.
If you want a truly excellent criminal defense attorney, you should select an attorney who has trained with the best criminal defense attorneys who practice in our country. The National Criminal Defense College selects a group of highly qualified attorneys each year for advanced training in the area of criminal defense. It would be to your advantage to hire an attorney who has trained at the National Criminal Defense College. You should also make sure your criminal defense attorney is a member of the National Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, as well as comparable organizations on the State and Local level.
Pay attention to peer and client reviews.
The highest caliber attorneys in this country receive the highest ratings of their peers, through the rating systems maintained by Martindale-Hubbell and Super Lawyers. You might also examine the peer and client reviews published at www.avvo.com, as well as testimonials published on an attorney's website.
Be wary of false promises and puffery.
Some attorneys engage in empty salesmanship and puffery. Be wary of any attorney who promises more than the attorney can be certain of delivering. Be cautious of any attorney who cites a won-loss record. Attorneys do not track their success statistically the same as baseball players. The success of an attorney cannot be reduced to simplistic metrics of that nature.
Intangible factors such as accessibility, honesty, and integrity are vitally important in the selection of an attorney.
Make sure your attorney is available to you when needed. Does the attorney hide behind staff and answering services, to isolate himself or herself from clients? Does the attorney have a disciplinary record with the Bar licensing authorities? Does the attorney have a solid reputation in the legal community? Ask around. Make sure your choice of defense counsel is a sound one.
Be aware that, as in much of life, when it comes to choosing an attorney, you frequently get what you pay for.
Attorneys charge vastly different rates for what might appear to be similar services. In general, the more experienced and successful an attorney is within a specific area of practice, the higher the attorney's fees will be. Attorneys who are just starting out and looking to gain experience tend to charge the lowest fees; truly excellent and accomplished attorneys usually charge much more than rookies. Make certain that you are not hiring an attorney based on cost alone. If you try to save money by choosing the cheapest attorney you can find, you might live to regret your decision.
Truly excellent attorneys have a diverse range of experiences and are able to develop an appropriate defense to any client's situation.
Be wary of an attorney who has a one-size-fits-all philosophy toward defending clients. Be cautious of an attorney who comes up with a solution to your problem before studying the situation carefully. A truly excellent criminal defense attorney is one who has been exposed to appellate and trial level criminal practice, and who practices in both the State and Federal criminal justice systems. If you choose an attorney who has a broad range of professional experiences, it is more likely that your attorney will have the flexibility and maturity to come up with the right defense strategy for your case.
Make sure your attorney is a good listener and truly cares about his or her clients.
Criminal defense practice requires attorneys to have people skills. Success in the area of criminal defense demands that an attorney be able to relate well to all kinds of people, including clients, witnesses, police and probation officers, medical experts, prosecutors and judges. You want an attorney who not only possesses the necessary intellectual qualifications to practice law, but also has the temperament to relate effectively with other people. You want your attorney to be a strong and effective advocate, who will not back down in the face of adversity. But a truly excellent criminal defense attorney must also be able to listen and communicate well with others.
Make sure your attorney speaks candidly and openly with you about expectations and cost.
At the initial consultation, the attorney should discuss with the client what the client's goals and expectations are in relation to the matter, and the attorney should disclose what the likely costs will be in the form of legal expenses and outside services during the course of the matter. An attorney should prepare a written representation agreement, so there will be no misunderstanding as to what the client's obligations will be with regard to legal fees and expenses. Do not be bashful about asking the attorney to break down for you what the costs of legal representation will be. The attorney should forthrightly and candidly disclose his or her billing practices, both in terms of legal representation and also any additional costs for which the client will be held responsible.