Anytime you are involved in a situation that requires an attorney, the quality of your pick is of utmost importance. This is especially true if you have been charged with a crime. Poor representation can have serious, long-lasting consequences for you and your loved ones. Here are some important considerations for choosing a criminal attorney.
Consult the Local Bar Association
Your state’s bar association is a great resource for checking up on attorneys under consideration. If he has ever been disciplined, this information will be available on their website. As far as being a referral source goes, however, the information provided is typically limited to the firm or attorney that is next-in-line. The associations are prohibited from providing any sort of recommendation beyond this basic information.
Use Referral Services Carefully
There are numerous referral services that can put you in touch with criminal defense lawyers. But, you should use them carefully. The criteria to get on the ‘’recommended’’ list differs among them. Some may only need to meet the most basic of criteria that in no way indicates their level of competence and knowledge. Simply paying the fee may be enough in some cases. There are some, however, with more strict criteria and these recommendations would hold more weight.
See if the Attorney is a Member of Relevant Organizations
The legal profession has countless organizations dedicated to specific areas of law. Attorneys who hold membership in them tend to be experienced, knowledgeable, successful practitioners who are passionate about their area of practice. Once you have narrowed down your list of lawyers, take a look at these websites to see if they are a member. If you are looking for representation for a drunk driving charge, for example, a great site to check is the National College for DUI Defense. These types of sites present the facts, not images and information handpicked by an attorney looking to market his services.
Experience in Your Type of Case
Criminal law covers a broad range of legal matters, and it is crucial to work with attorneys experienced in your type of case. If you are charged with a DUI, for example, you want a DUI firm that primarily focuses on these types of cases, not one who takes them on as filler, while mainly focusing on other criminal cases or unrelated practice areas. In this instance, it would also be important that the attorney has tried DUI cases in the jurisdiction where you were charged. Still using the DUI example, watch out for firms that take on drunk driving charges by the boatload and simply plea bargain each and every one, rather than every trying to defend you.
Meeting with the Attorney
When you are meeting with the attorney, there are many things to keep in mind when evaluating his potential. Pay attention to the nature of your interaction. Do you feel like the attorney is listening to what you have to say? Does he seem knowledgeable about your case? Does he seem to be doing nothing but talking about how great he is and how bad all the other lawyers are? While you are not looking to become best buds, it is important that you like him. Do not discount your gut feelings. If something seems off, move on to the next person on the list. Chances are, other attorneys will be assisting him in preparing the case. This is typical. But, as far as actually representing you in court, you want to be sure that it will be this attorney, and not someone else that you have not met, and know nothing about.
Kelli Cooper has blogged about a range of legal topics; if you are in need of a lawyer for DUI or other driving-related offenses in Virginia, she recommends visiting CNRLawyers.com for more information.