1. Criminal Defense Specialist. Get a Michigan criminal defense attorney, not just any attorney you or a friend knows or is familiar with. Criminal defense attorneys who concentrate their practice on criminal defense often know the judges and prosecutors involved, can get concessions that other attorneys don’t know to pursue, have probably handled cases similar to yours and can better advise you of your options. Check out their web site and if they list many areas of practice they don’t specialize in criminal defense. If you had a heart problem, your general practice doctor would refer you to a heart specialist. Similarly, a lawyer that does felony or misdemeanor criminal defense and also divorce, immigration, business law, etc… cannot possibly be expected to do as good of a job as a criminal defense specialist.
2. Benefits to a Law Firm. Get a criminal defense attorney who has the resources to handle your case. Resources includes experts, investigators, assistants, other lawyers (associates and partners), time and experience. Most criminal defense attorneys are solo practitioners and do not work with any other lawyers and do not have experts and investigators on retainer who they work and consult with on a regular basis. Hiring a criminal defense law firm has tremendous advantages over hiring a lawyer who works on his or her own. The fact is that no one knows everything or can think of every angle in a case. The advantage to having a team of lawyers working with you is invaluable.
3. Retained or Court Appointed. Court appointed attorneys are generally reserved for people who cannot afford private or retained attorneys. However, public defenders have very little time and resources to work on your case and result in less justice, according to research done by the Justice Policy Institute. The court appointment system has been found to be highly deficient in Michigan with many court appointed lawyers being so overloaded by cases that, despite their best efforts, they are unable to provide effective assistance of counsel. Appointed criminal lawyers may be very passionate and have the best intentions but may be overwhelmed by the sheer number of cases or may not have the experience or reputation to develop a retained practice.
4. No Substitute for Experience. Be careful of a referral to “my cousin’s best friend’s cousin” as your defense attorney. Ask friends if they know (or have experience with) a criminal defense attorney. This is not the time to hire a cousin who once won a speeding ticket case for your uncle or a friend of the family who handled an OWI case for your sister at a discount. If you are charged with a crime that can cause you to have a criminal record, you need someone who knows exactly what he or she is doing and the ability to protect you.
5. Do the “Google” test! Check out a lawyer’s reputation by searching for him or her on the internet. Lawyer rating services should not be used as a sole factor for hiring a lawyer. This being said, a lawyer who has earned a Martindale-Hubbell rating. “AV” is the highest ability/highest ethics rating. Avvo, probably the largest attorney rating organization in the United States has a 0 to 10 rating system with 10 (superb) being the highest possible rating. Finally, Thompson Reuters will award a very select, few attorneys with a rating of “Superlawyer.” Some websites have client reviews and they can be very, very informative.
6. Do not be fooled by advertising slogans. Slogans such as “former prosecuting attorney” or “aggressive trial lawyer” mean nothing. You must meet the lawyer and decide if you have confidence in his or her skills and feel comfortable with their analysis of your case. The best Michigan criminal defense lawyers get the best deals or the best results based upon their talent, dedication and reputation and not based upon prior jobs they’ve held. Many former prosecutors work as defense lawyers because they were unable to keep their employment with the government for one reason or another and they have no other alterative.
7. Don’t be sold out. Make certain that if you hire a lawyer you will not be farmed out to an associate or another lawyer. If you hire a law firm, your case should be primarily handled by the lawyers or partners of the law firm you hire. Don’t be a victim of the bait and switch.
8. The best lawyer who always wins. Remember there is no official list of the best lawyers. There is no official “win/loss” rate and there is no lawyer in history who “wins every case.” What is a win? A win to one client may be a favorable plea bargain or a lenient sentence and a win to another client may be an acquittal at trial or a dismissal of charges. Lawyers who advertize winning percentages or success ratio’s are often skewing the figures and leaving out important factors.
9. Reasonable and affordable legal fees. Look out for lawyers who quote “cookie cutter fees” or fees without learning fully about your case. Some criminal defense attorneys run their practices like a restaurant. They pre-determine fees for different types of cases. This is a sign that a lawyer works in volume rather than quality. Take an OWI or a domestic violence case for example. Person A is charged and wants to resolve his case with a plea and Person B wants a trial. A lawyer who charges everyone the same fee is likely to manipulate Person B into a plea or provide substandard, rushed trial work. Every case is different and a great criminal lawyer will take the time to meet with a client in person to determine what resources will be necessary to give them the best possible defense. The fee should be determined based upon the work that has to be done. Although the fee must be reasonable and affordable, a good attorney will charge a fee that is commensurate with his or her level of representation. You know what they say…”you get what you pay for.”
10. The X Factor. Some lawyers just have “it” and some don’t and the difference is usually apparent at an in-person meeting. When you look into an attorney’s eyes and they say they are going to fight for you, you will be able to tell whether it is a sales job or genuine. Sometimes hiring an attorney based upon a phone call, take the time to really talk with attorney so you can get a good feel for his or her sincerity. If you feel confident that an attorney is a great criminal defense lawyer and someone who is going to provide the best possible legal representation, it is very likely that you have found the right person for you. Don’t settle for someone just because they are quickly available and you are in a panic, your life is just too important. Make sure you fully consult with an attorney before making a decision and if you are not fully confident, get a second (or third) opinion.
Free Consultation and Confidential Case Evaluation