If you’ve landed on this site after doing a web search or glancing through the yellow pages, it’s painfully apparent by now that you have choices when it comes to hiring an attorney. Common sense tells you that not all lawyers are created equal, but you’re not a career criminal, which means you have either never or rarely have had to use the services of a criminal attorney before.
So how can you sort out the good ones from the bad?
Here are a few things I’ve learned characterize a reputable attorney from my years in law and from meeting a wide variety of lawyers – both ones I respect and ones I would warn any client to avoid.
1. People skills
Although the word “lawyer” literally means “one who practices or studies law,” it’s just as important for an attorney to also be a student of mankind and specifically the people around him. All attorneys have studied the law. But a good attorney listens to and understands his clients. His heart is not in his paycheck, but in helping the person in front of him achieve justice and turn his life around. A good lawyer also understands that when he’s in the courtroom, he’s not directing his arguments to an academic classroom, but to normal, everyday people. He understands how people work and how to communicate to them effectively in order to win his case.
It goes without saying that a good attorney should be knowledgeable in the law, but how do you know which ones really are? In general, the attorneys who know their stuff are confident in their knowledge and won’t try to convince you to retain them solely on the basis of flashy advertisements, high-pressure sales, or unrealistic promises. If a lawyer guarantees you a specific outcome, pushes you into making a decision, or points out how many TV commercials or radio spots he has, but rarely references his knowledge or experience, get a different attorney.
Look for a lawyer who has experience with the type of crime with which you’ve been accused. This is not to say that some young lawyers may not be hungry for your case and more willing to work hard, dig deeper, and fight more aggressively than older, more experienced lawyers, but this shouldn’t be your attorney’s first time around the block. If the lawyer you’re considering spends 80% of his time working with DWI and misdemeanor cases, he’s probably not the person you want representing you when you’ve been charged with murder. Find an experienced violent crimes attorney instead.
Avoid lawyers who don’t return phone calls or who don’t want to take the time to sit down with you an explain the process, what they’re doing, or what you can expect. If a potential attorney acts offended when you ask common questions instead of just “trusting him” and handing him the check, keep looking.
5. Honest Expectations
Any experienced lawyer knows that he or she cannot completely control the outcome of the case. Many variables are at play, including the other attorney, the jury, and the judge. He should be able to give you a good picture of what’s possible and a reasonable expectation of what’s probable, but never trust an attorney who promises you a specific outcome in any case.
Just like you wouldn’t trust a general practitioner to perform surgery, you shouldn’t trust a general attorney to defend a criminal defense case. Instead, look for someone who specializes in criminal defense – particularly in the area with which you’ve been charged. If you’ve been accused of a drug crime, try to find an attorney who has had experience defending drug cases. If you’ve been accused of embezzlement, look for someone with experience defending financial crimes. Each case is different, but your best chance for success is to find someone with in-depth knowledge and in-the-field experience with cases similar to yours.
The best attorney for your case is usually one who practices in the county where your case will be tried. Each county has slightly different ways of doing things and what works in Chatham County may or may not work as well in Wake County. Local attorneys also know the courts, the staff, the judges, and the nuances of defending there better than lawyers from out of town, so look for someone who spends a lot of time in Wake County.
At the Law Offices of Dewey P. Brinkley, we believe we have this kind of lawyer. The kind that truly cares about the outcome of your case, who is knowledgeable and experienced in his field, and who has a commitment to honesty and integrity. If you’re looking for a criminal defense attorney for your case, we encourage you to call our office and talk to us about your case at (919) 832-0307.