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.