I often tell prospective clients that regardless of their experience, education and success in life, picking a criminal lawyer is an entirely new thing, one in which by the time you are fully educated in the process it is often too late to apply your new-found knowledge. Criminal lawyers, being salesmen by nature – after all, they are required to sell your theory of the case to prosecutors, judges and juries – often will tell a client anything to get hired. Don’t be fooled by hollow words or false or misleading advertising. After all, this could be the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life since it is possible that your very freedom and the future of your family will depend upon it. If you want to find the best criminal attorney in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Westchester, Long Island or anywhere in the country — the rules are the same.
Focus On Experience – Confirm What They Say and Advertise
Unless you’re charged with walking around with an open container on the street, there’s a good chance your case is actually important to you. And if so, hire a lawyer who has been doing this for more than ten minutes as experience does matter. With the advent of the internet, oftentimes young, inexperienced attorneys will cover up their lack of experience or skill with paid advertisements on the internet or ratings on some of the attorney ratings service sites which are wildly gamed and inflated. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put up fake testimonials from “former clients” or to inflate accomplishments on an attorney’s firm website. All of this is done to hook you as a client and to take your money.
Insist upon verifying the cases they claim they have won. Ensure that the cases they claim they have “won” are not cases in which an acquittal was gained on one charge and the defendant convicted on the other 29 – and is now serving a 20 year sentence. Ensure that when an attorney advertises that he or she won a case that they were the actual lead attorney and not the one carrying his or her boss’s bags — or buying the morning Pop Tarts before the trial day started (I eat blueberry and strawberry frosted Pop Tarts before each trial day in case you were curious). Ask for the names of the cases and review the work if possible – you can even ask for a cross-examination transcript. Do NOT rely solely on the attorney’s word until you can verify his or her work. I have seen many attorneys advertise false accomplishments and get away with it.
In the same vein, if you have a federal criminal case, ensure that your prospective attorney has federal court experience. Same with a state case. The criminal code is different in each of these systems and the requisite lawyering may also differ.
If I were hiring a criminal attorney, I would want one who solely does criminal defense work — not someone who does slip and fall personal injury cases as well or complex civil litigation. The more criminal cases an attorney has had over the years, the more he or she can potentially learn about defending a criminal case – the experience of which can be used to help you in your case.
Google Your Attorney
Check out online not what anonymous people say about your attorney, but what an objective observer says, i.e. the media. Read what reporters have written about your attorney’s performance in a case or what judges or jurors have said about the attorney as reported in the media following a trial day. You can’t find any such reports? Then maybe your lawyer has never had a significant trial – and there’s probably a good reason for that. Your prospective lawyer has had many high profile clients? Wonderful – just ensure that the attorney has actually won a fair share of these high profile cases. And don’t be fooled by attorneys who appear on television news shows all the time to discuss legal issues: lawyers sometimes pay to be on these shows, to discuss other attorneys’ cases. It’s just another bit of advertising with little substance.
Do Not Focus Solely On Price
Would you pick a brain surgeon based solely on who was the cheapest? Of course not. So why choose a criminal attorney in the same manner? Believe it or not, sometimes you get what you pay for in life. At the same time, I’ve seen attorneys charge a total flat rate for the pretrial and trial portions of the case, all to be paid up front. Clients have been fooled, thinking that the total price is not astronomical as it promises pretrial work and a multi-week trial as well. Problem is, once the fee is paid the attorney often pushes the client very hard to take a plea — right after you just paid him for the trial as well. You will not be getting that trial money back without a fight.
Ensure That You and Your Lawyer Connect Mentally
Make sure that you connect with your attorney, that you actually like him or her. This person will become hugely important to you and you will want to be able to have a good give and take with the attorney.
Last Words of Wisdom
If the attorney you are interviewing promises a result in a case, run — don’t walk — out of the office. The only thing an attorney should be promising is to work his hardest for you and to get the best possible result he or she can.
Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Lichtman to Discuss Your Case Today
Yes, we are rated the highest on Avvo legal rating service, Martindale-Hubbell peer review system and Superlawyers. Yes, we have won high-profile, incredibly difficult cases. And yes, even the press thinks we’re smart. Bottom line: we get results. Call us at (212) 581-1001 to schedule a meeting to discuss your case today.