How do I choose a lawyer?

Anyone can advertise as a criminal defense lawyer.  In fact, many attorneys that rarely deal with criminal law often hold themselves out as capable of being a criminal defense attorney.   Lately more and more big law firms are holding themselves out as local to Buffalo and Western New York, but they don’t even have offices in Western New York.   Other lawyers hope that they can make more money by handling criminal cases occasionally on the side, but they don’t have the time to learn the law, let alone talk to their clients, after all you’re just a side job to them.

The law has become more and more complex, and changes in statutes and case law arise every single day.  If your lawyer does not make it a point to keep up with those changes, you risk paying the price.  The truth is there are probably about one hundred lawyers in Western New York that probably have the experience and skill necessary to help a client as much as is truly necessary. I think I am one of them, but I admit, I’m pretty biased.

A good attorney can make a significant impact on your case, regardless of your guilt or innocence.  There are a lot of reasons why, but perhaps the biggest reason is this:  when a lawyer reviews the facts and evidence in your case, he is looking to identify issues that may exist that can help a client’s defense. Most issues alone, will not make a big difference, but a skilled criminal defense lawyer will find every issue, and understand their value to the client’s defense.  Without experience or focus in criminal defense, it would be difficult to find all of these issues.  A good lawyer will use any and all legal or factual issues to get a better plea deal, file motions, run hearings or even prevail at trial.

When you are looking for a criminal defense lawyer or attorney, you should consider looking for someone that:

  • Focuses on Criminal Law;
  • Has substantial trial experience;
  • Has substantial experience handling cases like yours;
  • Has substantial experience in the Court or before the Judge you are to appear before;
  • Has a limited practice that only accepts a limited number of cases to avoid errors;
  • Has experience with the Law Enforcement Agency that has charged you;
  • Will answer your questions about his/her experience open and honestly;
  • You are comfortable communicating with.

It’s okay to call around and talk to a number of potential attorneys, but I truly recommend that you sit down with any prospective choice face to face.  This will help you get a better feel for your ability to communicate with him or her.  As a practical matter, it will also allow you to get to know him/her, and get a feel for whether you’d like him/her to be your voice in Court.  Appearance isn’t everything, but it’s okay to use common sense too.  If they come off as sloppy, overwhelmed, inattentive or even rude, then move on and find someone else.

Finally, don’t be afraid to tell them your expectations from their work.  If you believe you have been wrongly accused, tell them.  If you simply want to reduce the possible repercussions of your case, make sure you voice that as well.  If the lawyer you are speaking with doesn’t seem to value your views or doesn’t seem to care about your concerns, then why not look elsewhere?

Everyone of us is human, and we all have faults, quirks, imperfections or limitations.  We don’t all get along, and certain personalities will never mesh well, so make sure that your lawyer is someone that will not only represent your defense, but will also represent you in a way you can be proud of.