How to Select Your Attorney

The first, and perhaps the most important, decision that anyone who has been charged with a crime must make is choosing his counsel.

Once charged with a crime, the only thing standing between the defendant and a governmental machine designed to chew him up and package him into a jail cell is an effective, aggressive, and talented attorney. And, because of the urgency of the criminal justice system, a decision as to counsel must be made immediately. To delay could cause irreparable harm in a whole variety of areas from the setting of bail to the investigation of your case.

The process of finding an attorney is critical, and should begin by calling on those who you trust to help you locate counsel. You should never settle for someone ill-equipped to handle your case.

The prospect of the disruption of your entire life and a terribly long period of custody in prison looms in front of you. The last thing you need is Uncle Bob's real estate attorney who "used to handle drunk driving tickets" or even the lawyer who was so effective in winning your friends accident case.

You should seek and obtain an attorney uniquely qualified for your case, your facts, your situation. You should find an attorney who is extensively experienced in criminal defense. He should be someone who has the talent and aggressiveness to fight your case all the way to trial, if necessary but who is also capable of communicating with judges and jurors and even prosecutors - all with a goal towards achieving the best possible result in your case.

You need someone who can champion your cause, as there may be no one else on the whole planet who will stand up next to you in a courtroom and stare down the forces of the government. You need someone with the experience to coordinate an effective investigation and expert preparation in your case; someone knowledgeable enough to know the issues which will come up with your cases; someone who can read people and react quickly on his feet in a courtroom setting; someone who is not afraid to stand up to a judge or a prosecutor on your behalf; someone who can articulate your position effectively to the court or to a jury. You need someone who has experience in the courtroom, but who has the ability to write effective legal motions and present intricate legal questions. You need someone capable of educating and retaining critical experts on your case. You need someone who has demonstrated an ability to be successful in a courtroom.

Talk to your family and friends to search for such an attorney. Use publications or the internet or word of mouth to find counsel - but don't settle.

Consider how many trials he's had; how many years he's been a lawyer; what do other lawyers say about him; how do other agencies rate his abilities; has he gained the respect and accolades and awards from his peers; do you feel comfortable working with him.

Criminal defense in a felony case is as serious a circumstance in the law or in the world, for that matter, as any circumstance you will ever face in your life. It is the legal equivalent of brain surgery, it is often life or death or close to it. Gather all your support and your energies to carefully choose that one person who will be your counselor - your attorney.