Should I hire a criminal defense attorney is it alright to hire a general practice lawyer

Criminal Defense Expert vs. General Practice Attorney


I’m a big believer in comparing lawyers and researching potential attorneys on the internet. I frequently speak to people who are looking for lawyers and indicate that an attorney told them not to call around because they will become confused or because they will just run into an attorney who will trick them. My believe is that unless you meet with a lawyer that you are totally comfortable with, you should talk to one or two other lawyers to get a basis for comparison. Lawyer rating sites like,, and are excellent resources to find and compare attorneys.


On, the top rated lawyers are rated at 10.0 which means superb. On, the top lawyers are rated “AV” which means preeminent. Finally, on, the top rated lawyer is 5.0.  Some criminal defense lawyers even have the prestigious distinction of being named a SuperLawyer.


One question I’m frequently asked when being interviewed by a potential client on a criminal defense case is whether the best lawyer to defend a criminal charge is a “criminal defense attorney” or a “general practice attorney.” In many of these cases, the client has used an attorney before on a divorce case, probate case, real estate issue, commercial matter, or other civil suit and he or she is being told to just use the same attorney to defend a criminal allegation, felony or misdemeanor. 

A General Practice Lawyer is NOT a Specialist 

Using an attorney who practices multiple types of law on a criminal defense case is a big mistake for many reasons. In virtually all areas of law, with the exception of criminal defense and criminal appeals, the same Michigan Court Rules control the procedure for litigation. An entirely different portion of the Michigan Court Rules applies to criminal cases. There are a multitude of court rules a lawyer just will not know who is not a specialist in criminal defense…it’s virtually impossible. 

A Lawyer Who Specializes in Criminal Defense is More Likely to Know the System and the Law 

The criminal justice system is unique because criminal defense lawyers are in court constantly where lawyers who handle other types of law either split their time between court and doing paperwork or they are mostly working in the office setting. Criminal defense lawyers become far more connected and familiar with the court staff, judges, opposing counsel (city attorneys, prosecutors and United States attorneys). Because of criminal defense lawyers have the ability to build reputation with the other players in the criminal justice system, they have a distinct advantage over a civil attorney who isn’t as familiar with the important players, system intricacies, and best procedures.

A Criminal Defense Attorney Will Have More Trial Experience 

If you are looking at working with an experienced criminal defense attorney with a known, proven trial record, there is even a greater advantage in working with this type of lawyer as opposed to a civil attorney. Experienced criminal defense specialists go to trial multiple times per year, some have trials monthly or more. Civil attorneys frequently have jury trials only a few times per year or less. The criminal defense attorney who is a known trial lawyer and litigator will bring not just experience but the treat of experience. Most criminal cases do not go to trial and usually result in a settlement of some type (a plea bargain, sentence bargain, Cobb Agreement, diversion, advisement, etc…). There is just no doubt that a known criminal defense trial lawyer will be able to achieve a better settlement than a less experienced criminal defense lawyer and a much better settlement than a even less experienced and known civil lawyer.


A good analogy is to consider a person with a heart problem. Would that person be best treated by a heart doctor or a general practice doctor? Who would you recommend. The answer is clear, if you have a heart problem…see a heart doctor. If you have a criminal charge or allegation…work only with a dedicated, specialized criminal defense lawyer.

An In-Person Consultation is Best 

As a side note, I also believe in looking a person in the eye before you hire them. The eyes are the window to the soul and one of the best means of being able to determine if a person (including a lawyer) is being honest and sincere is to look into his or her eyes before you make a final decision. If possible, always ask for a free consultation on the telephone and if you think there may be a connection, ask to meet in person. 



The Stakes Are To High to Take A Chance on an Inexperienced Lawyer


Just to be clear, because there is often some confusion, civil attorneys work on cases that do not potentially involve jail, prison, probation, parole, driver license sanctions (in most cases), and potentially termination of parental rights (in many cases). If a case, investigation or charge may result in jail or prison time or probation, the case is criminal. Some examples are domestic violence, DUI/DWI (drunk driving), retail fraud, embezzlement, assault, murder, criminal sexual conduct, driving while license suspended (DWLS), child abuse or neglect and more.