If I’ve learned one thing from my 12 years in private practice, it’s how difficult it can be to choose an attorney to represent you for a criminal charge. Whether you or a loved one is charged with a DUI or a far more serious felony, deciding who to trust with such an important life event can be challenging. Unlike doctors or plumbers, it can be embarrassing to ask a friend, colleague or family member for a recommendation. Most people want to keep even the fact they were charged with a crime private. So how do you confidently make the choice of with whom to trust your case and your future?
Ask Another Lawyer
While you don’t want to entrust your DUI or your child’s MIP to the guy who did your will or the woman who handled your cousin Gladys’s divorce, asking a lawyer you do trust for a recommendation is probably a pretty good place to start. Even if they don’t practice criminal law, they will know the reputations of the lawyers that do and are more likely to give you an unvarnished opinion of the abilities of the lawyers you are considering
Local knowledge is key
Relationships and local knowledge matter. It’s fine to order prescriptions from Canada or your online purchases from Seattle, but for a criminal charge you should always be looking for a local attorney with experience with the practices of the local courts, the proclivities of the judges and attitudes of the prosecutors. Some attorneys take cases thought the state or up and down the I-5 Corridor, but no one can really be a familiar with the courts and personalities of so many jurisdictions. Remember, even a small county like Whatcom has 8 different courts, 15 judges and court commissioners and more than 2 dozen prosecutors. If you don’t practice here regularly you can’t possible know them all.
I had a client once who, because like most people he was unfamiliar with the criminal justice system, went through a big California Law Firm to hire an attorney for a serious Washington felony. He spent $6,500. for virtually nothing and ended up hiring me after being dumped by the lawyer that had subcontracted with that out of state firm. (see my article for the full story: http://www.brodskylawfirm.com/unethical-sub-contracting/).
Do a Google search
You could just hire the lawyer with the biggest yellow pages ad, the slickest website or the fanciest office, but none of those things really tell you much about the quality of the attorney or what they bring to the table. If anything that may simply tell you that you will be paying for the big ad, slick website or expensive office space. What should you do?
Are there any reviews or comments about the attorney? Do they have a Martindale-Hubbell A/V Peer Rating? What are other lawyers and former clients saying about them on websites such as Avvo? Look at the lawyer’s own website. Are their guides that indicating their knowledge about the crime you are charged with? Positive comments from satisfied clients?