Facing a criminal charge is serious business. Depending on the severity of the charge, you could face years in prison, stiff fines, bankruptcy, a tattered reputation, and unemployability. Depending on your charge, you might even have to register as a sex offender. Your choice of criminal lawyer might just turn out to be the most critical decision you make in your entire case. The following is some advice on how to get it right.
They Specialize in Criminal Law
When a new lawyer passes the bar examination and the state licenses them to practice law, they can practice in almost any area of law (patent law is a rare exception). Many lawyers run practices where they might set up a living trust, sue someone for personal injury, and plea bargain with a prosecutor, all in a single day.
It is better to seek a lawyer who has mastered Kentucky criminal defense law than a “jack of all trades” lawyer who is the master of none.
They Have Years of Experience
You wouldn’t want someone just out of medical school performing surgery on you, would you? Likewise, you need an experienced lawyer when you face criminal charges. The more serious the charges are, the more critical it becomes that you select a criminal defense lawyer with experience. If you do, nothing will likely happen in your case that your lawyer hasn’t seen and dealt with before.
Their Criminal Law Experience is Local
Your lawyer should know the nuances of Kentucky criminal law. They should have experience practicing in Lexington criminal courts for years and know all the players involved. These relationships matter, and so do the little nuances of the system that differ from location to location.
You Feel Comfortable in Their Presence
Don’t ignore your intuition. People give off non-verbal signals that betray their true character. Even if you don’t have conscious access to these signals, you might experience them as a general unease in the lawyer’s presence. These feelings could indicate that you and your lawyer have incompatible personalities or communication styles. Either way, treat this as a red flag.
They “Tell It Like It Is”
Avoid lawyers who make you feel like you are attending a motivational seminar rather than discussing the defense of a serious criminal charge. No reputable lawyer, for example, will offer you a guarantee on the outcome of your case. Telling you what you want to hear might get them your business, but it can also leave you dangerously exposed to a brutal and sometimes merciless Kentucky criminal justice system.
A good Kentucky criminal defense lawyer will listen carefully to your story and discuss your options with you. If your options are all unpleasant, they will tell you so without hesitation. Once you realize this, you will be better positioned to believe it when your lawyer has good news for you.
Check Out Their Online Reputation
Any lawyer has some degree of an online presence. Indeed, the lack of an online presence might justify suspicion of the lawyer’s legitimacy. There are several ways you can research your lawyer’s reputation from the privacy of your own phone or computer. Here are a few places to start:
- The “Client Reviews” section of the lawyer’s website.
- Avvo.com is a popular lawyer rating service.
- Martindale Hubbell, which is perhaps the world’s most authoritative lawyer rating service.
- The Kentucky Bar Association website, where you can look up the lawyer’s disciplinary record and confirm whether they are entitled to practice law in Kentucky.
A criminal defense case is often a team effort. Find out who else will work on their case, and research them too. If anyone in the firm has experience as a prosecutor, take heart. That gives you a significant advantage if they become involved in your case.
Check Their Website
Strict rules on lawyer advertising prevent these websites from offering a misleading impression. If the lawyer or the firm has won any awards from their peers in the legal profession, such as Super Lawyers or The National Trial Lawyer Top 100, you can be certain these awards will feature prominently on their website.
Ask for References (and Check Them!)
Don’t be afraid to ask the lawyer for satisfied clients’ names and contact details. By all means, follow up by contacting these clients, explaining your purpose, and listening carefully to what they have to say. They might be able to provide you with some sight concerning the lawyer you could never have obtained otherwise.
Of course, this method isn’t foolproof. After all, the lawyer will not likely give you the contact details of unsatisfied clients.
The Firm Is the Right Size
Some firms are too small to handle your case effectively, while some are too large and spread their resources too thin.
Avoid One-Lawyer Firms
Sole practitioner criminal law firms are not at all uncommon. There are two main problems with one-lawyer firms:
- They often lack the resources to investigate your case properly.
- If they are skilled and experienced, they may become overwhelmed by the demands of a heavy workload and find themselves unable to give sufficient attention to your case.
A small firm might be able to handle your case with ease, but a firm with a single lawyer, even with excellent support staff, is not likely to be enough unless you are simply contesting a traffic ticket.
Avoid Megafirms (Except for Complex White Collar Cases)
Generally speaking, you should avoid mega-firms, where you are nothing but a case number, and your case is likely to be passed down to “the junior guy” or even to a paralegal. The major exception to this rule of thumb applies if you are charged with complex white-collar crimes such as computer hacking or insider trading. Even so, a relatively small law firm is likely to be able to handle your case if its lawyers enjoy the right experience.
Act Now For a Free Initial Consultation
Prosecutions can move ahead with dizzying speed. Contact us immediately if Kentucky or federal authorities have arrested or charged you with a crime. You can schedule a free initial consultation by filling out our online contact form or by calling us.