What Qualities Should I Look For In A Criminal Defense Attorney?
You should look for a criminal defense attorney who has trial experience. There are many young attorneys who are completely inexperienced. I understand that everyone has to gain experience somehow, and that if no one will hire you out of a law school, then you don’t have much of a choice. However, it’s very important to have an experienced attorney for matters in criminal law because any case could end up going to trial. If that ends up being the case, you want someone who knows what they are doing.
There are a lot of criminal defense lawyers who are what we call in the industry “guilty plea factories,” which means they claim to have a lot of experience, but all they end up doing is convincing their clients to plead guilty. The reason why that’s so prevalent in criminal law is because unlike other areas of the law (civil law, family law, etc.), the clients are rarely repeat-customers, so to speak. As a result, the attorneys are not afraid of offending them by having them plead guilty; they just get their money and move on. Unfortunately, that attitude is not uncommon.
It’s also important to be wary of attorneys who advertise as having a lot of “badges”, claiming to be a member of 20 different organizations (all of which they are at the top of), or claim that they are at the top of the list of 100 top trial attorneys. When there are too many claims of this nature, you have to be weary of marketing bias. Most of them are paid for; the only thing that the attorney needs to do is have an attorney friend of his nominate him for something, and he could become the next “super lawyer” by paying a fee to the organization. Unfortunately, this type of thing is very prevalent.
When looking for an attorney, you should ask how many cases they have tried and how many jury trials they’ve had. Ultimately, trial work is what separates the great attorneys from the mediocre ones. If an attorney doesn’t know how to try a case, then they really don’t know how to defend one. If they don’t know how to defend one, then they are not going to be able to get their clients the best result. They have to be able to tell the district attorney, “Look, this is where your case is weak, and if we take this to trial, you’re going to lose. My client wants to plead guilty, so give him a deal and save us all the time.” Sometimes an attorney can only do that if they have a good reputation and significant experience.
What Sets Your Firm Apart In Handling Criminal Cases?
I have spent 28 years working within the criminal justice system. My entire working life, I’ve been a part of the criminal justice system in one way or another. As an adult probation officer, I gained insight on how people are treated post-sentencing. As a police officer, I gained insight on how police officers think and how they go about prosecuting cases. I know the weaknesses of police officers, and I know that most police officers hate to do paperwork. Very often you’ll find that their paperwork is sloppy, not because they don’t care, but because they just prefer street work. They don’t want to be sitting behind a desk; they want to be out there locking up the bad guys, and in their rush to “get back on the streets” is where they make mistakes.
As a prosecutor, I know that every case has a political aspect to it. I know that the younger prosecutors aren’t given as much discretion as the older or experienced prosecutors. Sometimes you have to go above people’s heads to get the job done, because that’s how the offices work. I know all that stuff because I’ve been there and I’ve worked with them. So, I think what really sets my office apart is the fact that you would be hard-pressed to find an attorney who was a probation officer, a police officer and a prosecutor before becoming a criminal defense attorney. I’ve prosecuted in two different counties, and my office is in an area where I’ve spent my whole life working. I grew up in Chester County, and I have relatives in Montgomery County, Philadelphia, and Southeastern Pennsylvania, where I’ve worked my entire life. That experience definitely gives me an edge over virtually all of the other attorneys in this area.
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