Monday, December 16, 2013

HOW TO CHOOSE A CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY

No matter how great they are, not all attorneys are right for all clients. So how do you choose the criminal defense attorney that will best represent you? Here are some pointers:

1) Communication: This factor would likely be at the top of any client’s list. You need an attorney who will communicate well with you. This does not necessarily mean that your calls are immediately returned every time, although an attorney should not leave clients hanging. But the attorney should answer your questions and explain your options in a way that you understand.

2) Trust: Choosing an attorney can be like choosing a doctor. You need to have confidence in their judgment. If you find yourself constantly second-guessing your attorney, then you may need to find someone else. You should not, however, assume that how you think a case should be handled would actually work in the courtroom. An experienced attorney knows how the justice system really works, which is why you need someone you trust to guide you through it.

3) Personality: While not strictly the most important factor, finding a good fit for your personality can increase your peace of mind. Perhaps you’ve never gotten in trouble before, and you are terrified. A compassionate attorney with a warm and caring manner might work better for you than the more coldly, clinical type. If you are all business yourself, you might prefer a more detached lawyer.

4) Knowledge and Experience: Has the attorney worked on this kind of case before? Does your attorney ask the right questions? Are they knowledgeable about the law and procedure? How about the players in the courthouse? An attorney’s main job is to formulate the best strategy to defend your case. A knowledge of what the prosecutor is likely to offer or how the judge is likely to react can be invaluable when making important decisions such as whether to take a case to a jury.

5) Reputation: An attorney who enjoys a good reputation at the courthouse is more effective. An attorney who is respected and/or liked may get a better deal than one who is rude and does sloppy work.

6) Location: While not essential, it can certainly help to get someone located relatively close to the courthouse. I have an office in Skokie, and so I do a lot of my work at the Skokie Courthouse. But this is not the most important factor. I do work in many other Chicago-area courthouses equally effectively. A conscientious attorney can make a good impression anywhere. <8>7) Price: This is the least important factor except in terms of your budget. It is possible, although difficult, to find an excellent attorney who charges the bare minimum. Many of these attorneys are only interested in pleaing out your case as soon as possible. They generally will not bother to review the evidence to see if you have a defense. Many times, I have had a difficult second offense with a client because they hired a cheap attorney to plea out a fightable first offense. Even where a plea agreement is best, attorneys who automatically plea out cases may not get you the best possible deal. A prosecutor has no incentive to give a good deal to an attorney who won’t fight for you anyway.

By the same token, the fact an attorney charges top dollar is not a guarantee of quality. You really need to evaluate each attorney based on the above factors.

If you have questions about this or another related criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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