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What Should I Look for in a Criminal Defense Lawyer?

Posted on: December 21, 2020

Choosing a lawyer is one of the most important decisions a defendant will make in his or her life. When facing serious charges, a good lawyer can mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment. However, with so many options, how can a defendant choose? There are various qualities to look for in a criminal defense lawyer to ensure the best possible outcome in one’s case.

Individual Lawyer versus Law Firm

Some criminal defense lawyers work alone, and others work as part of a team in a law firm. Although there are pros and cons to each, it is generally preferable to hire a lawyer who works in a law firm with multiple partners for several reasons.

Criminal defense lawyers who work alone may be handling many cases and not have as much time to devote to each one. Solo lawyers also typically have limited resources and are therefore more selective about the types of cases they are willing to take on. Additionally, lawyers who work alone tend to handle multiple unrelated areas of practice and may not be as experienced in criminal law as large criminal defense law firms.

On the other hand, law firms will have several lawyers who can strategize and share the responsibilities of each case. They will be more likely to take on difficult or novel cases because, unlike solo lawyers, they have the time and resources to devote to them. It is especially advantageous to hire a law firm that has been around for a while with lawyers who have been practicing together for years, as they already have an established rapport and procedure for handling cases and will therefore typically be more efficient than a lawyer working alone.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Should be Zealous Advocates

Whichever lawyer or law firm a defendant chooses, he or she should make sure they are dedicated and passionate. Lawyers who exhibit these traits will go above and beyond to ensure the best outcome for their clients. They love what they do, and they are not deterred by complex cases or hard work. A dedicated law firm will earnestly attempt to obtain the best possible outcome for its clients.

A good criminal defense lawyer understands the gravity of a defendant’s situation and will fight to get the charges dismissed or reduced to protect their client’s future. If the case goes to trial, he or she will serve as a zealous advocate for the defendant, leaving no stone unturned to win the case. When researching criminal defense lawyers, therefore, a defendant should assess whether a lawyer seems dedicated to their profession and passionate about their work.   

Professionalism is Essential

A criminal defense lawyer should be qualified to practice law, meaning that they have graduated law school and passed the bar exam in their jurisdiction. Moreover, they should conduct themselves in a professional manner. Lawyers who do not return their clients’ phone calls, forget to keep clients updated about their case, or are difficult to contact are not the right choice for defendants facing criminal charges.

Ideally, a criminal defense lawyer will be easy to get a hold of and if unavailable, will get back to their clients within a reasonable amount of time. Under the rules of professional responsibility, lawyers have a duty to communicate with their clients. Failure to do so may qualify as professional misconduct. Lawyers must also comply with other rules of professional conduct, such as the following:

  • Keeping confidential any information relating to the representation of their client
  • Not representing an individual if the representation involves a conflict of interest
  • Making reasonable efforts to expedite litigation
  • Refraining from making false or misleading statements about his or her services
  • Maintaining the integrity of the legal profession

Criminal defendants should hire a different, more professional lawyer if theirs does not return their phone calls, keep them apprised of the status of their case, or comply with the rules of professional conduct.

A Local Lawyer is Preferable

When choosing a criminal defense lawyer, it is wise to consider where he or she practices because it is preferable to hire a lawyer with experience in the courthouse where the defendant’s case is pending. Lawyers develop relationships with prosecutors, judges, police officers, and other parties to local trials. Therefore, they may be able to leverage these relationships as well as their knowledge of local procedures when attempting to obtain the best outcome in a case.

Criminal defense lawyers in another county, although still licensed to practice in the state, may not have as much localized information at their disposal. They likely do not have a preexisting relationship with the various parties to the case, which leaves them at a disadvantage when it comes to negotiation and strategy. Criminal defendants should therefore hire a local lawyer who knows the ins and outs of the county courthouse where their case is pending whenever possible.

Relevant Experience is Necessary

Criminal defendants should make sure that their lawyer has experience relevant to their case. There are rules and regulations that apply only to some areas of law, and certain crimes necessitate different approaches. Reading about an area of law only goes so far; there is no substitute for practical, hands-on experience. Criminal defense lawyers who are experienced in the area of law relevant to the defendant’s case will be better able to develop a winning strategy, comply with procedural requirements, and assess how the case is progressing, as well as determine the likely outcome.

Some criminal defense lawyers specialize in different areas, such as drunk driving or white-collar crimes, whereas others take on all types of criminal cases. The important thing is to ensure that the lawyer has experience representing clients charged with the same crime as the defendant. For example, if a defendant is charged with a drug offense, he or she will want to hire a criminal defense lawyer who has experience representing individuals with drug offenses.

Personality Matters

Finally, the lawyer must be someone with whom the defendant feels comfortable. To mount the best possible defense, a lawyer needs to know the circumstances of the case in addition to some personal information. This means that the defendant must be open and honest with his or her lawyer and willing to disclose sensitive details. When searching for a lawyer, it is advisable to look at online reviews, testimonials, and consider referrals from friends or colleagues.

The lawyer-client relationship is one of the most revered relationships in the eyes of the law. Lawyers are prohibited from revealing any information disclosed to them by their clients in confidence and have a duty to serve as a counselor to their clients. However, if a defendant does not believe their lawyer is someone they can trust, they may leave out potentially vital information that would have helped their case. They must therefore feel comfortable putting their trust in the hands of a lawyer who will advocate on their behalf. When choosing a lawyer for their case, criminal defendants should look for someone who is compassionate, trustworthy, diplomatic, and willing to listen.

Freehold Criminal Defense Lawyers at Ellis Law Assist Clients with Various Types of Criminal Defense Cases

If you have been charged with a crime, put your trust in the Freehold criminal defense lawyers at Ellis Law. We treat clients like family and are always available to answer any questions or address any concerns. Once retained, we will assemble a legal team that will be assigned to your case, conduct a thorough investigation, negotiate aggressively with the other party, and take your case to trial when necessary. Call us at 732-308-0200 or contact us online for a free consultation. Located in Freehold, New Jersey, we proudly serve clients throughout East Brunswick, Toms River, Middletown, Jersey City, Neptune, Hudson County, Union County, Essex County, and Ocean County, as well as Brooklyn and New York, New York.

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