Which criminal defence lawyer you hire could turn out to be the biggest decision you ever make, and it's natural to be nervous about it. There are a few things you should keep an eye out for while you're making your decision. Following these general guidelines should help you find the right person to defend you in court.
Remember that you don't want "the best lawyer"--you want the best lawyer for you.
It's all well and good hiring the most expensive lawyer in your district, or hunting for someone who has reportedly "never lost a case"--but there's always a chance that a pricey attorney with a perfect record has built their career on taking safe bets from rich clients. Even when that isn't the case, things like how well you work with them and how experienced they are in cases like yours are usually more important than an arbitrary measure of being "the best lawyer". Look out for lawyers who have specialised in cases similar to yours in the past, and try to find someone you think you'll develop a positive working relationship with.
Look for a lawyer who is local to the courthouse you'll be tried in.
One of those considerations is locality. If a lawyer has tried lots of cases in the same courthouse under the same judge, chances are that they'll be particularly good at working with the people and system in that court. As soon as you find out where you are to be tried, start looking for lawyers who work in that place often.
Consult with more than one lawyer initially.
As with many things, it's a good idea to meet more than one lawyer before you make your final decision. They'll understand--they're professionals and they're used to it. There are a few questions it makes sense to ask while you're choosing:
- You're going to need to know about fees, payment schedules and how often this lawyer has worked on similar cases.
- Make sure you ask about trial strategy as well as potential for plea bargains and negotiations.
- Ask your lawyer to explain any alternative options to you. You want someone who will keep you properly informed and help you understand.
Be wary of anyone who makes unrealistic promises about the outcome of your case; however, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. You'll be better served by someone who is realistic and honest than by someone who just wants to keep you happy for long enough to get paid.