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What to Look for When Hiring An Attorney

Important Factors to Consider When the Stakes Are High

If you are traveling on the highway in the middle of the night with an empty gas tank, one gas station is as good as the next. Shell, Amoco, Phillips 66 … Who cares, right? The first station with a bright neon “OPEN” sign gets the business.

If you are facing criminal charges, your freedom, your reputation, your family name and even your life may be on the line. Lawyers are not like gasoline. One is definitely not just as good as the next. Some lawyers practice in a multitude of practice areas: divorce, custody, personal injury, civil litigation, worker’s compensation, traffic and criminal defense. This type of lawyer may have never tried a felony criminal matter to a jury. When your future is at stake, you owe it to yourself to take the time to actually meet with and talk to at least three qualified lawyers in order to make an informed decision. Only hire the lawyer you believe is best-equipped to aggressively defend you — and dedicated to doing so.

Questions to Ask Any Defense Attorney You Are Considering Hiring

If you are facing serious criminal charges – and really, what criminal charges aren’t serious – and you are in the process of contacting potential lawyers, you need to ask the lawyers you meet with some very serious questions:

  • How long have you been in practice? (Much of criminal defense work boils down to pure “flight time.” No one can learn it all in the first few years of practice.)
  • Do you limit your practice to defense of criminal matters, or do you practice in other areas as well? (A “Jack of All Trades” is generally a master of none.)
  • How many cases do you handle at any given time? (The more files any lawyer has “open,” the less time the lawyer will spend on any given day thinking about any one client’s problems. A high volume practice may not be a sign of a high quality practice.)
  • Will you appear with me at Court or will my case be handed off to an associate? (Many clients pay for a lawyer’s “name” and never see that lawyer after the initial consultation while the case is actually handled by an eager but inexperienced and over-worked “associate.”)
  • What percentage of your cases actually goes to trial? (Does this lawyer give the same blustering “sales pitch” to every client only to quickly plead and divert all of his or her cases?)
  • When was the last time you handled a case involving charges similar to mine? (If you are facing charges of manslaughter, narcotics trafficking, or indecent liberties with a minor, you don’t want a lawyer to “learn” about that area of the law for the first time with your case.)

Sadly, many lawyers will say and do almost anything to ensure that they are hired when a new client calls with a potentially big case — even if that new, big case involves an area of the law in which the lawyer has little or no experience. Many lawyers find themselves overwhelmed by new and unfamiliar procedural rules and statutory requirements in cases they had no business handling — to the detriment of their clients.

I can tell you that I do limit my practice to defense of criminal charges. I have never handled a divorce. I have never litigated child custody or visitation case. I have never handled a worker’s compensation claim. I have never drafted a will or administrated the distribution of an estate. I limit my legal practice to criminal defense.

What Kind of Attitude Should Your Attorney Have?

I defend people accused of violating the law. Period. From the husband and father of three accused of driving under the influence of alcohol who will lose his job if convicted, to the mortgage bank employee accused of violating Federal Lending Requirements at the direction of her employer. From the college student accused of possessing and selling marijuana on campus, to the young man accused of kidnapping and killing a young woman he had never met before.

My job is not to pass judgment. My job is not to decide who does and does not deserve my “best.” My job is to hold the prosecution to the very highest possible standard. My job is to challenge the admissibility and the sufficiency of the government’s evidence. My job is to know your case better than the prosecutor who filed it. My job is to advise you, to represent you, to fight for you, and to protect you.

“Facing Criminal Charges? There are no Trivial Matters! “

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