How To Find A Qualified Criminal Defense Attorney
What If This Happened to You?
You had just a couple of drinks at the company party. That woman just bolted in front of your vehicle on your drive home. You never saw her, did not have time to stop, and couldn’t avoid hitting her. She was pronounced dead at the scene, and the intoxilyzer test results revealed that you were over the legal limit.
You’ve been arrested and charged with a criminal offense. Never before have you required the services of an attorney, but now your life, liberty, and property are in jeopardy. It is imperative that you find and hire an attorney qualified to handle your individual legal situation.
How to Find the Right Attorney
Choosing the right attorney is a formidable task that must be executed with the utmost attention to your needs and objectives, and many factors are involved. The process of finding the right lawyer for your case begins with determining what type of legal advice you need.
Would you hire a plumber to prepare your taxes? Of course not! Then don’t hire a divorce attorney to represent you in a criminal matter. You need to find the right attorney for your specific legal needs. Below are some key tips to helping you find your next attorney.
Ask people you know and trust for recommendations. You might be surprised by how many of your friends, relatives, and colleagues have had the need for legal representation or know someone who has.
- Ask about who those people retained. Would they recommend that attorney for your type of case?
- Compile a list of three or four attorneys you believe may be good choices. Attorney and client personalities are different, and each case is different, so while recommendations are a good place to start, don’t base your entire decision on what one friend has to say.
- After you compile a list of names, begin the selection process. Contact the attorneys on your list, and make appointments to meet with them to discuss your case.
Do your research on any attorney you may be considering. Learn as much as you can about the attorneys you’re considering.
- Determine how long each attorney has been in practice and if the attorney’s practice concentrates on criminal law.
- Ask how many criminal defendants the attorney has represented, what the expected fees are, and how the attorney accepts payment.
- Scrutinize the activities in the attorney’s office. Does the office seem organized and have sufficient, professional, and qualified staff?
- Ask for the names of cases handled by the attorney. Criminal files are available in your local courthouse and are part of the public record.
Getting answers to these questions will greatly aid your decision. But don’t stop there.
Know what to expect from the attorney you’re hiring. Learning more about your attorney’s reputation and standing within the court system will help you know what to expect with your own case.
- An attorney who has good standing in the legal community can be the difference between a good outcome for you or a bad one.
- People who work in the courtroom, such as court clerks, court reporters, and bailiffs, observe attorneys on a daily basis. They know which attorneys have good working relationships with judges, prosecutors, other lawyers, and court personnel. Those same people can also tell you about an attorney’s integrity, honesty, and reliability.
- Take the time to attend court and observe the attorney at work. See for yourself how the attorney performs.
- An attorney’s expertise, experience, and performance are important, but how well you and your attorney relate with each other is vital.
Understand your attorney’s role and obligations. A good attorney will fully explain the true nature of your legal position and your options, whether stark or promising. He or she is not your friend, but your ally.
- Reality can be brutal, but your attorney’s duty is not to tell you what you want to hear, it is to give you the best advice possible based on the facts, circumstances, and law.
- Your responsibility in turn is to tell the whole truth. Being deceitful or withholding essential information from your attorney can ruin your case.
- Telling the truth from the beginning may lead to a quick resolution, thus saving you money, time, and many sleepless nights. Only when your attorney is equipped with all of the facts can he or she determine and advise you about the best course of action and the probable outcome.
Inform Yourself and Choose Wisely
Having to hire an attorney is an unpleasant task rife with challenges and complexity, but it is essential should you find yourself in a difficult legal situation. If you do your homework and adhere to the guidelines outlined above, you will enhance the possibility of success. Talk to those you trust the most. Talk to people who have pertinent information. Question and observe. And above all, remember that you will be the one most affected by your decision.
About the author: Mr. Randal P. Serrette is a full-time instructor in the Criminal Justice associate’s degree program at Remington College in Shreveport, LA. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and a Juris Doctorate from Southern University Law Center in Baton Rouge. Mr. Serrette has more than 15 years of experience practicing law, including serving as the Assistant District Attorney for the 16th Judicial District of Louisiana for 18 years, participating in the Death Penalty Review Board with the District Attorney’s Office, serving as the Legislative Liaison, and much more.
Beginning the search for the right criminal defense lawyer can be overwhelming. Once you have determined what qualities are important for your lawyer to have you can begin narrowing the search in a number of different ways.
- Referrals: Getting an opinion from someone you trust can give you a starting point in your search for counsel. Ask your friends, family members, and anyone you know who may have experience with lawyers, the criminal defense process, or other aspects of the legal field if they have any recommendations. If someone you know has been represented by a criminal defense lawyer in their own case, you can seek advice from that individual.
- Observation: If you are unsure of how you want to be represented in court, you may want to sit in on some public court sessions for a better idea of what qualities you want in your defense. You can also take down the names of any lawyers whose performances impress you, or that you feel may be a good person to represent you and contact them later to set up a consultation.
- Professional Organizations and Directories: Every state and many major cities have professional organizations of defense lawyers. Some organizations offer testimonials and referral services, as well as online directories of practicing local criminal defense attorneys. Other online directories list criminal defense attorneys by area. In addition, you can consult the yellow pages of your phone book for a list of local criminal defense lawyers.
- Advertisements: Many criminal defense lawyers will advertise in the yellow pages of the phone book, on television, on billboards, and in public transportation areas. If you find an attorney’s advertisement helpful you can call to arrange a consultation.
- Newspaper and Archives: As newspapers generally cover criminal cases, articles and archives will explain cases and charges, name the attorneys involved, describe the details of the trials and announce the outcomes. You can search archived articles online and at your local library. If a past or current case relates to yours you can take down the name of the lawyer and call to set up an appointment.
- AboutBail.com: AboutBail.com has a nationwide trusted network of local, qualified criminal defense lawyers. To find someone near you, click on your state on the AboutBail.com map, or enter your location information into the search bar. The quick search will provide you with contact information for criminal defense attorneys near you. Use that information to get in touch with a lawyer near you to find out more about the firm’s services and costs.
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