Selecting A Criminal Defense Attorney
It is extremely difficult for the average person to make an informed decision regarding the selection of a criminal defense attorney. Most people do not plan to be arrested or charged with a crime in advance. To complicate matters, the decision typically has to be made during a period of overwhelming stress.
For example, many people take on the daunting task of selecting an attorney after unexpectedly spending a night (or more in jail), borrowing money to bond out of jail, and overpaying to get their vehicle out of impound. It can be tempting to make an impulsive decision simply, but it is seldom in your best interest to do so.
The choice of who you trust to represent you is probably the single most important decision you can make and has the potential to determine the outcome of your case. If possible, take time to do your research and make an informed decision.
My best advice to prospective clients is to trust your gut instincts. Most of us know when something is too good to be true, or when something is not going to work out.
Consider the following questions:
Q. How long did you have to wait to speak with an attorney? Were you placed on hold for more than few a minutes? Were you transferred to a secretary or paralegal instead of an actual attorney?
As a prospective client trying to decide whom to hire, you are – or should be -the firm’s top priority. If the attorney is too busy or uninterested in making time for you, that problem is only getting to get worse. The firm may have more clients that it is able to represent effectively, or the attorney simply may not care that much about his clients.
Q. Was the firm’s marketing materials or advertising misleading or inaccurate? Did the firm advertise a low fee and then raise it once you called or visited?
It is a sad truth that some law firms and lawyers are willing to mislead prospective clients with offers that are simply too good to be true in order to get your attention and interest. When the time comes to actually sign a contract, you suddenly find out the price is much higher and that the firm cannot guarantee any particular result.
- Q. Was the attorney genuinely interested in helping you? One of the most rewarding things about working as a criminal defense attorney is the opportunity to truly help and make a positive impact in a client’s life. A criminal charge can devastating effects on a person’s life, and the best criminal defense attorneys care about their clients and are motivated by the desire to help. If the attorney you’re thinking about hiring just doesn’t seem to care about anything other than the money, look elsewhere.
Q. Was the attorney honest and straightforward with you? Or did the attorney just tell you what you wanted to hear?
At the end of the day, one thing your criminal defense lawyer cannot change is the facts of what happened or the evidence in your case. In some cases, you may have an excellent defense or the State’s case may be incredibly weak. In other cases, you may be facing an uphill battle to get a dismissal or a not guilty. Whatever the case may be, your lawyer should be able and willing to tell you the truth, not just tell you what you want to hear or promise you the moon.
Q. Is the attorney someone you can work with and develop a relationship with?
Depending on the circumstances and type of charge that you have, your case may be pending for quite a while. In some larger counties like Dallas, a misdemeanor may takes months, even years to resolve. For a serious felony, a prosecution can sometimes go on for years.
The last thing any client ever wants to have to do is start over and hire a new lawyer in the middle of a case. You probably are not going to refund, and much, if not all of what you spent on the first attorney may have been wasted.
If you cannot relate to your lawyer or choose have such different personalities that you do not understand each other, it’s probably better to keep looking.