The 6 Worst Mistakes You Can Make Hiring a Defense Attorney

Just as I refer someone to an attorney who specializes in an area of law I am not comfortable in, most of my clients come through referrals by other attorneys who, in part because of my reputation for excellence in criminal law, recommend that the prospective client contact me.

Other times a client finds me by searching the internet, making an appointment with me, and comparing me to other attorneys who they have also found on the internet.

In the 30 years that I have been an attorney, I have seen firsthand the mistakes that clients routinely make when deciding who they should hire to represent them or their loved ones who are charged with crimes.

The majority of prospective clients have never been in trouble before and don’t have a grasp of the criminal justice system. Their nervousness about “being in trouble” leads them to choose an attorney who generally is overworked and unable to focus on their specific case.

Over time, I have seen prospective clients choose the wrong attorney for the wrong reason. Oftentimes, a client will decline to retain me, only to return six months later telling me that exactly what I had originally said is coming to pass. There are general “themes” when the client returns to my office and what follows are the 6 most common “themes” that seem to happen.

1. Hiring a Defense Attorney Who Lacks Specific Experience in Your Case Type

The first thing someone should do when looking to hire a criminal defense attorney is research the crime with which the person is charged. For example if someone federal drug conspiracies. Experience does not simply mean an attorney who has a volume practice where they process the client through the criminal justice system. Experience means someone who has earned the respect of the Government by fighting for their clients by way of going to trial or through filing pretrial motions.  Like anything else in life, respect is the greatest asset anyone can have.

2. Not Asking Hard Questions

After researching the crime, make an appointment with 3 or 4 attorneys. Do not be afraid to ask hard questions. You are hiring someone who will literally have your life in their hands.

3. Allowing Disorganization

When you interview an attorney, see what kind of office they have. It is easy to make promises on the telephone or during the first interview. But, if you have to wait to meet with the attorney that is a bad sign. Similarly, if their desk is full of papers it shows that the attorney is not going to be focused on your case.

4. Be Wary of an Attorney Advising You to Plead Guilty Early in Your Relationship

If during the first appointment, the attorney discusses pleading “guilty” that is a warning because the attorney should know very little about your case.  Discussing pleading guilty without having any idea of the facts involved or possible defenses shows that the attorney ultimately will be more interested in having you plead “guilty.” It is similar to a brain surgeon diagnosing you with brain cancer during the first appointment without doing any tests.

5. Not Doing Your Due Diligence on Previous Cases

Ask questions about the number of federal criminal trials the attorney has had in the past year or five years. Get the names of the cases so that you can look them up. Get the names of former clients you can call to see whether the attorney will actually fight for you.  It is an indication that a lawyer will not fight hard for you if they never go to trial.  Similarly, getting an idea of how hard they worked for former clients is indicative of the type of relationship the attorney has with their clients.

6. You Get What You Pay For

The issue of fees is something that goes into hiring an attorney. Unfortunately, the reality of life is that the better the attorney, the more it will cost. Volume attorneys are cheaper than quality attorneys and you need to accept that a good federal criminal attorney will be more expensive.  If you are comfortable with a particular attorney, do whatever you possibly can to hire that attorney.  Otherwise, you generally will end up with someone who you will never feel is doing a good job for you.

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