How To Pick Your Criminal Defense Attorney

- By Bruce D. Quick

So a younger criminal defense attorney walks in my office and the following colloquy occurs:

Lukacris (pseudonym: think red devil on Tim Matheson’s shoulder in Animal House): “Where do your clients come from?”

Atticus (pseudonym: think Atticus Finch in To kill a Mockingbird): “They walk through the same door you just came in!”

Lukacris: “How did they get your name?”

Atticus: “I don’t think about it.” “Word of mouth from other clients, attorneys, police, yellow pages. I don’t know.”

Lukacris: “But if you are a new attorney, and there is no word of mouth, what then?” “And just so you know, no one uses yellow pages anymore!”

Atticus: “Not my problem. A fool can ask more questions than a wise man can answer!”

Lukacris: “Have you ever tried social media? Optimization on the internet? Or writing a blog?

Atticus: “No! What is optimization? And what is a blog? I recall a bad movie called the Blob, is it similar?

Lukacris: “You really are a dinosaur aren’t you?”

Atticus: “My wife says I am a Neanderthal, I have evolved from dinosaur!”

Lukacris: “A blog is just an essay on relevant law topics that would be posted on the internet for people to read.”

Atticus: “On what issues?”

Lukacris: “Anything relevant to what you do as a criminal defense attorney!”

Atticus: “Like how to pick a criminal defense attorney?”

Lukacris: “Whatever!”

So here goes, my first attempt at Blobbing – a few suggestions for potential clients to consider when selecting their attorney.

  1. HIRE THE ATTORNEY THAT LISTENS TO YOU!

I was recently court appointed, in federal court, after the accused threatened to beat up his last attorney. During the first meeting, the client refused to shake my hand and said he hated and distrusted all attorneys. I admitted that not all are as lovable as I am, but we do our best. I then spent the entire first meeting talking about him: his background, family stuff, and related issues. I never mentioned my background or experience. He later told me that no one had done that before (he was a “frequent flyer” with many previous attorneys) We got along very well after that.

  1. HIRE THE ATTORNEY THAT SPECIALIZES IN YOUR CHARGE!

Although criminal law is a specialized area of practice, not all of us handle all types of criminal cases in all jurisdictions. You should ask your prospective attorney if they have handled your type of case before, how often, and what they can expect to happen; procedurally, substantively, and collaterally. They should be able to answer your questions beyond the current charge. For example, if convicted, can I vote, possess a gun, travel to Canada or Europe, and many other collateral issues. Feel free to shop around. Good attorneys are not threatened and will encourage you to take your time in making this decision. Do not hire someone who bad mouths other attorneys. They generally do not have a good reputation with anyone!

  1. HIRE THE ATTORNEY THAT YOU GENUINELY LIKE!

If you don’t like and respect your attorney, they probably feel the same about you. You will get a sense in the first meeting if you will have a good working relationship with the attorney. You can check attorney rating services, such as Martindale Hubbell Best Lawyers, and others. However, I would recommend use of only those services that are objectively reliable and thatthe attorneys have been rated by other attorneys or judges not by paying a fee to be “optimized” on the internet.

  1. THERE IS MORE TO CONSIDER THAN MONEY!

We receive phone calls daily from people who simply ask what we charge.We almost never quote a fee on the phone because each case is different.

We always insist on a personal visit. We generally do not charge for this unless we are hired. If the client doesn’t want to spend the time doing this, and simplywants to make a decision based upon a retainer quote, we prefer they go elsewhere. I don’t believe we are more expensive than others, but I am told that we approachthis issue differently than most. Criminal cases are serious business and you need to hire someone who understands that and handles the case in a professional manner.

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