If you’re struggling through a legal situation and find yourself facing criminal charges, it’s time to stop taking a DIY approach and/or dealing with an incompetent public defender who doesn’t know you or understand your case. You need a bonafide criminal defense attorney.
Where to Look for Criminal Defense Attorneys
If you don’t currently have a criminal defense attorney, it’s time to start looking for one. There are a number of sources you can go to, including:
- Personal referrals. The best possible way to find an attorney is through a personal referral. When you get a personal referral, it usually means it’s someone you trust. In other words, it strengthens your confidence in the attorney before you do any of your own research.
- Secondary referrals. Not everyone is going to be able to find a personal referral. In this case, you’ll need to seek out secondary referrals. These are referrals that come from second-degree connections. In other words, you know someone who knows a good attorney. It would be like if you asked your best friend for a referral to an attorney and they said, “I don’t personally know any good ones, but my neighbor has worked with this attorney before and has really good things to say about him.” Secondary referrals are good, but they instill slightly less confidence, since you’re a layer removed.
- Online directories. There are a number of online directories that will help you find attorneys based on different criteria. This includes popular options like Avvo, Nola, FindLaw, Lawyer.com, LegalZoom, and Justia.
- Google searches. You can also run a simple Google search for attorneys in your area (or attorneys who specialize in the specific types of crime you’re being charged with). This is probably the least reliable method – simply because you’re finding the attorneys who are the best at SEO – but it can give you more names to consider.
In some cases, you might find an attorney using just one of these methods. In other scenarios, it may require a combination of methods – such as secondary referrals and online directories. While you definitely want to hire an attorney sooner rather than later, there’s also something to be said for patiently going through the due diligence process until you find a good fit.
Factors to Look for in a Good Criminal Defense Attorney
Getting access to a short list of potential attorneys is the first step. But just because you have a good referral or promising result from an online search, doesn’t necessarily mean they’re the perfect attorney for you. Ultimately, you have to consider a number of factors. This may include:
- Experience. It’s always a good idea to begin your search by considering the experience level of the attorney. There’s a big difference between an attorney who has been practicing law for three months versus an attorney who has been practicing law for three years. Likewise, there’s a difference between the attorney who has practiced for five years and the one who has been around for 35 years. Generally speaking, the more experience, the better.
- Niche. In addition to experience, you want an attorney who specializes in a specific area of criminal defense and who has expertise in your specific county or state (since laws change across jurisdictions). For example, if you’re accused of a sex crime in Collin County, Texas, you want a sex crimes defense attorney in this county.
- Track record. Not all experience is good experience. You should also think about the lawyer’s track record. Do they win a lot of cases? Are they typically able to settle out of court? What are their trial skills like?
- Testimonials. An attorney can tell you pretty much anything you want to hear. In some cases, they might sugarcoat or exaggerate. But do you know who won’t? Past clients. They’ll tell you the good, the bad, and the ugly. Proactively seek out testimonials and reviews online. You’ll discover everything you need to know (and more).
Adding it All Up
Hiring the right attorney is probably the most critically important decision you’ll make throughout this entire process. Make sure you take your time and figure out which attorney is the best fit for you and your case. Good luck!