Getting in touch with a criminal defense lawyer can be a daunting prospect, so it’s best to be prepared and well versed in how to go about this and what to expect.
To that end, we’ve put together some questions for newbies to consider that should help connect you with an attorney who’ll be a good fit for your needs.
Does the lawyer have specialist local knowledge, e.g. in Middlesex County?
In books and movies about criminal trials, you’ll often see the protagonist calling in a hotshot lawyer from some other part of the country to defend them. In reality, this isn’t the best option, because laws differ across the regions, and working with someone who has unique knowledge and experience of your area is sensible.
For example, you can trust local criminal defense lawyers in Middlesex County to know the ins and outs of New Jersey’s legal system, while an attorney from elsewhere would have a lot of catching up to do.
What credentials do they bring to the table?
It’s perfectly reasonable to ask a prospective lawyer about their educational and professional background before you give them the green light to represent you.
In fact, most attorneys will be eager to advertise their credentials, so you should be wary of any that are less than forthcoming with this information.
Get the lowdown on everything from the law school they attended to the organizations they’ve got membership of, and you’ll know you’re in safe hands.
Do they have a respectable track record?
Again, if a lawyer has got an excellent hit rate in terms of successfully defending their previous clients, then you should be told about this.
Likewise, if they are cagey on this topic, or they admit that they do not have a lot of experience to date, then you deserve to know and adjust your expectations accordingly. In law, as in business, reputation is important.
Are they familiar with the type of defense you require?
It’s not just local knowledge that’s valuable to defense lawyers, because of course there are many different types of crime of which individuals can be accused. This means that you want to find an attorney that has experience dealing with cases of the particular type you are facing.
Whether you’re looking for a defense against charges of petty theft right up to murder, you want a seasoned specialist and not a jack of all trades.
Can they communicate effectively and in a timely manner?
The last thing you want as a client of a criminal defense attorney is to find that when you need to get in touch with them to ask questions or get support, they are either unavailable, slow to respond, or don’t provide the clarity you need from the advice they provide.
Working with a lawyer who treats you like a valued customer, and not a nuisance, is crucial. You also want them to be plain-speaking and unambiguous in the way they talk to you, and a good listener, so that you are always in the loop throughout the course of the case.
How are their fees charged?
Finally, you have to get down to brass tacks and deal with the small matter of paying for the services of a criminal defense lawyer.
Again, you want as much clarity and transparency here as possible. Be cautious about very low fees that are too good to be true, because they could indicate an attorney who is hiding something about their reputation. Also avoid excessive fees, as these may have little to do with the quality of the representation they’ll provide, and everything to do with vanity.
With all this in mind, hiring a criminal attorney need not be so intimidating or vexing, even if it can feel that way.