I heard a great line on the TV show Shark Tank last night - "there
are few moments in life that REALLY MATTER - this is one - now don't
screw it up."
Choosing a criminal defense lawyer is one of the moments that REALLY MATTER.
Most people understand that. Hopefully, you don't have much experience
in choosing a criminal defense lawyer. Here's what you need to know:
1) You MUST get a criminal defense lawyer. Criminal defense is a specific
type of law. Top criminal defense lawyers are very specialized. Criminal
Defense is an area that is continually changing and developing and you
must have a lawyer that is practicing criminal defense on a daily basis.
It is not the time to use the family attorney, or even call them for a
referral (he probably doesn't know who's who - or might be sending
you to one of his friends so they can make a buck). You wouldn't go
to the family doctor for brain surgery. You can't go to the family
lawyer for criminal defense. You need a specialist.
2) Your lawyer should have a certain level of experience. Experience does
not equal year admitted to practice law. I means real experiences that
allow them to defend you.
Most good defense lawyers in this community were Assistant District Attorneys
(prosecutors) before they were defense attorneys. A new prosecutor handles
thousands of cases a year, more than anyone else, which gives them experience
very quickly. Experience handling cases from the other side also gives
invaluable perspective when preparing a defense. There are good defense
lawyers who were not prosecutors - many of them were assistant public
defenders with large case loads and a few just buckled down and learned
the old fashioned way.
I also believe that a good criminal defense lawyer will have handled the
most serious cases, A - felonies, like murder and sexual abuse. These
cases are more completely investigated and prosecuted, which requires
defense lawyers to learn about cross examining experts, medical examiners,
DNA analysts, psychologists etc.
3) This is a results based industry. Past results do not guarantee future
outcomes. However, like any business there are winners and losers. You
need a winner. In my opinion it is more important to have a winner with
an incredibly experienced lawyer. I get very frustrated with criminal
defense lawyers who talk about doing the job for the past 30 years, when
it is common knowledge they have been terrible for the past 30 years.
It makes much more sense to have a younger, hungrier lawyer that has been winning.
4) You can't afford to bargain shop. There is always a lawyer that
will take your case for less money. There are two problems with cheap
lawyers. First, there is probably a reason they are cheap, they are not
in demand. Second, your lawyer must get paid enough to allow them to devote
the proper amount of time to preparation. Some lawyers think your only
job is to make it to the court dates and try to get their client to accept
the first plea offer out of the mouth of the prosecutor. A good lawyer
spends hours doing things like reviewing documents, doing research, visiting
the scene, hiring private investigators. It costs more to get a good lawyer,
because they do more work.
5) You must be comfortable and confident in your lawyer. Every lawyer and
client are not a good match. The average case in Monroe County is 6-9
months. You need to be able to effectively communicate with your lawyer
for that period of time. If you are considering a lawyer set up a meeting
with them and ask the questions about their experience, results and how
the expect to handle your case, including how they will communicate with you.
If you are looking for a
criminal defense lawyer in Rochester, my firm has the experience and results you need. I hope you will contact
me for a free consultation to determine whether we can work together to
defend your case.