How to Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer

By Ephrat Livni, Esq. on May 19, 2016 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If you're accused of a crime, you need a good criminal defense lawyer. But good doesn't come in one style, and what you need will depend on you and the specifics of your case. There are all kinds of counselors with different effective approaches to defense.

People pick attorneys based on reputation, experience, word-of-mouth, price, advertising, the feeling they get when meeting counsel, and more. Here are some general principles to consider so you know what to look for when exchanging with defense counsel and deciding about representation.

No Accounting for Taste

There are many lawyering styles from the aggressive attorney to the zealous defender. Some lawyers are soft-spoken and persuasive, some are charming arguers, others are tenacious and creative and can find a solution where other attorneys see none. The lawyer for you depends on who you are and what your criminal case involves.

An articulate attorney is key, however. You need to be able to talk to your lawyer and understand what they are saying and doing for you, even if it's through a language interpreter. Is the person inspiring confidence in you or do you feel like you're being hustled? Do you feel comfortable being represented by this individual based on how they speak and their apparent understanding of the issues?

You will have to talk about difficult matters with a lawyer so don't go with someone who is a bully or in a big hurry because they seem slick. Really think about this relationship. It can mean a lot in your life. If, for example, you also have immigration or other legal matters pending, alert the attorney. Lay out all the possible concerns to get good guidance.

Assessing Experience

When it comes to deciding how much experience is right, this too depends on you. What you need is a dedicated attorney and one willing to work for the best resolution possible in light of your life. Some new attorneys are very good and some old ones have bad habits and vice versa.

Look for someone who lays out multiple options or promises to do more research, for example. If the attorney starts by quoting a price and saying you likely have to plead guilty, proceed with caution.

A defense attorney works for you. Sometimes that means telling you hard truths but you need explanations of process and some options, not another prosecutor.

Consult With Counsel

If you're accused of a crime, talk to a few lawyers. Call a few offices and find out what you can. Make an appointment with the lawyers that seem most promising. Many criminal defense attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to talk about your case.

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