Pay Attention to Specialization
Some lawyers tout their services generally as criminal defense attorneys, and others specifically market their specializations on their website and in other marketing materials. There are several dozen types of federal crimes that defendants may be charged with. These include armed bank robbery, wire fraud, child pornography and a wide range of other crimes. There are also more than a dozen federal agencies that may play a hand in investigating the case and bringing up charges. Because of how different the various types of federal charges can be and because of the extensive range of laws that pertain to different types of crimes, it is important that you hire a lawyer with deep knowledge of the laws and charges that are relevant to your case.
Explore the Attorney’s Experience
A defense lawyer can specialize in any area of the law, but that does not mean that he or she is as experienced in this area as the next lawyer you may find. Federal criminal law is often complicated, and there may be specific nuances that make the differences between lighter or more serious charges. There may also be nuances that ultimately could lead to an acquittal. Your specialized defense attorney should have deep working knowledge of the law and be familiar with relevant case law. The attorney ideally will also have a wealth of hands-on experience that can be used to strategically develop a customized, effective defense.
Focus on Communication Skills
While you can and should thoroughly research an attorney’s background and credentials online, you also should communicate with the attorney several times before making a hiring decision. Ideally, this will include both verbal and written communication. You are essentially placing the outcome of a crucial case in this person’s hands, so you need to ensure that he or she has exceptional communication skills. Remember that the attorney will represent you both in and out of the courtroom. This includes potentially structuring a plea bargain, presenting your defense in court, arguing for bail in an initial court appearance and more. The attorney for the job is one who speaks eloquently and persuasively.
Place Weight on Honesty and Integrity
You may be facing many years in prison if you are convicted of the charges against you. This is not the time for someone to sugarcoat the facts or to tell you what you want to hear. Instead, it is a time for you to hear the hard facts of the case, to be frank about the potential outcome and to ensure that you understand the severity of the charges against you. A lawyer who skirts around the facts may give you a warm feeling, but this is not the person who you need to represent you at a time like this. Likewise, you should pay attention to lawyers who make promises they cannot fulfill, who are overly arrogant and who may be dishonest. The criminal defense lawyer is humble, knowledgeable, honest and straightforward.
Learn About Legal Fees
Finances may be one of the last things on your mind when you are potentially facing years or decades in federal prison, but fees are an important consideration when hiring a lawyer. A lawyer should be able to tell you about his or her fees over the phone or via email before you sit down for a consultation. Keep in mind that some lawyers charge a flat rate for the entire case. Others may bill you by the hour or even in increments of 30 or 15 minutes. In some cases, an attorney may enable you to set up a payment plan. Ensure that you can afford an attorney’s fees before agreeing to a consultation.
Request a Consultation
Some criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation, and this is a service that you should take advantage of. While you can learn a lot about an attorney through email phone conversations, a face-to-face meeting is an important step. You will be working closely with your attorney for several months or longer. You need to have a good rapport with this individual, and this can be established in person. A consultation is also a great time to inquire about professional experience, defense strategies and other detailed factors that could impact your hiring decision.
Given the important role that your attorney will play throughout the case, you should feel completely confident about your selection. Avoid making a hiring decision solely on a recommendation. Ask as many questions as you need to in order to have full confidence in your selection. Because your attorney needs ample time to build a great defense on your behalf, now is the time to start interviewing defense attorneys.