Finding the right criminal defense lawyer can be a daunting task.
With thousands of lawyers at your fingertips, Ms. White has outlined the following steps to ensure that you hire the right lawyer.
- When you contact a law firm, be careful of any legal advice from staff members who are not attorneys. Such advice is not reliable and only licensed attorneys can give legal advice.
- Do your homework! Take the time needed to research an attorney. Who are they? What is their education and background? How long have they have practiced criminal defense? What are their specialties, if any? Are they legally licensed to practice law in California? Are there any complaints about this attorney?
- Check for any client reviews about the attorney. What do others have to say about this attorney? Beware of fake testimonials, internet marketing ploys, and advertisements that come in the mail.
- Check with the State Bar of California to find out if there have been any disciplinary actions against an attorney. To inquiry, go to the following website, type in the attorney’s name, and click search: http://members.calbar.ca.gov/fal/membersearch/quicksearch
- Ask for a consultation from the lawyer you want to hire. Most criminal defense attorneys offer one (1) free confidential consultation.
- If possible, schedule an in-person meeting with the attorney you want to hire before you retain their services. This will tell you more about the attorney than any phone consultation.
- Do not be afraid to interview the attorney you want to retain. A good attorney will take no offense to questions. For example, you should know how long have they have practiced law as a criminal defense lawyer in California. What is their experience in handling your type of case? What is their trial experience? Are they available to take your case? Will other lawyers work on your case? If so, who are they? Etc.
- Make sure that the attorney you retain will be the actual attorney to represent you in court, rather then an associate you have never met.
- If an associate attorney will be assisting in your defense, inquire about who that attorney is and what their role will be. Some associate attorneys will act as lead counsel and the attorney you sought to hire is only available for guidance. This will not be a problem if you know who the associate attorney is and you agree to have them represent you.
- Is it better to hire an attorney who is a former prosecutor? It is a misconception that former prosecutors make better criminal defense attorneys. Attorneys who choose to become prosecutors are usually pro-prosecution, rather than defense-oriented thinkers. When an attorney decides to “switch sides” after many years of prosecuting people to become a criminal defense attorney, are they doing it because they want to fight for the rights of the accused? Usually not; It is usually a business decision–about making more money. This does not mean that former prosecutors are bad defense attorneys. I know of some that are very good. But in my experience, to be great, the attorney must also be defense-minded at heart; they must possess a true compassion and desire to help those accused of crimes and to zealously defend their rights.