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7 Traits You Should Look for in a Criminal Defense Attorney

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If you’re facing criminal charges, you can’t afford to take a half-hearted approach to your defense. You need to support yourself with the best possible attorney you can afford, ensuring you get the quality representation you deserve.

The Traits to Look For

It doesn’t matter if you’re innocent or guilty. And neither does the fact that you’re successful and have a good reputation in the community, or you’re relatively unknown and don’t have much credibility. Regardless of what end of the spectrum you land on, you need the best criminal defense attorney you can find. To find the best, you have to know what to look for.

While no two criminal defense attorneys are the same, there are certain common traits and characteristics that are generally shared across the upper echelon of lawyers in this niche (see here). We’re going to explore a few of them so that you know what to look for.

  1. Experience in Criminal Law

For starters, you need someone who specializes in criminal law. Just like you shouldn’t see a cardiologist for a broken leg, you shouldn’t hire a divorce lawyer to handle your criminal case. Look for an attorney who spends most of their time dealing with criminal law, as this depth of experience will provide insights and knowledge that general practitioners might not have.

  1. Success Rate in Similar Cases

While past success is not a guarantee of future results, an attorney’s track record can give you an idea of their capability and familiarity with cases like yours. As you consult with lawyers, ask them about their experience with your specific type of charges, and what outcomes they’ve been able to achieve in similar scenarios. This can help set realistic expectations and give you confidence in their ability to handle your case.

  1. Strong Communication Skills

Effective communication is important. (And it might be the most underrated item on this list.) Your attorney should be able to explain complex legal jargon in understandable terms and keep you informed throughout the process. They should also be approachable and available to answer your questions promptly. 

During your initial consultation, notice whether the lawyer listens to your concerns attentively and responds in a way that makes you feel understood. If they’re unable to communicate effectively with you, imagine how ineffective they’ll be in the courtroom when dealing with a judge, witnesses, and other individuals who play a key role in influencing the outcome of your case.

  1. Ethical Standing

Your attorney’s ethical reputation is everything. You can check their standing via your state’s bar association website, which can tell you if they have ever been subject to disciplinary action. An attorney with a clean, ethical record is important not only for your confidence in their services but also for the credibility they bring to your case in court.

You can also review an attorney’s website to get a feel for how long they’ve been in business, what accreditations they have, whether they’ve won any awards, etc. Take attorney Ryan Beasley from Greenville, South Carolina as an example. His website provides a ton of detail and background information on who he and his team are. This is valuable information as you’re vetting different options. Be sure to review websites for attorneys in your area.

  1. Positive Reviews and Personal Referrals

Online reviews and personal referrals can provide insights into an attorney’s effectiveness and demeanor. While every case is different, reviews can reflect important aspects like an attorney’s reliability, aggressiveness, empathy, and success. 

Personal referrals from friends or family members who have had direct experience with the attorney can also be invaluable. When you know someone who has interacted with a specific lawyer before, you’re able to ask them questions and gather additional details that might not be available on a website.

  1. Trial Experience

Many criminal cases are settled out of court, but if your case goes to trial, you’ll want a lawyer who is comfortable and experienced in the courtroom. Trial lawyers are very skilled in crafting compelling narratives that can persuade a jury. During your search, inquire about the attorney’s trial experience and their comfort level with taking a case to trial if necessary. If your case ends up going to trial, you’ll be glad that you had these people on your side. 

  1. Dedication to Your Case

You want an attorney who is genuinely interested in your case and dedicated to achieving the best possible outcome for you. During consultations, gauge their enthusiasm and commitment. 

  • Are they asking detailed questions? 
  • Do they seem distracted or disinterested?
  • Are they giving you the advice you want to hear or the advice you need to hear? 

Your instincts can be a telling factor in your decision. Obviously, there are other factors involved, but this is a very important element to consider in your final choice.

Find the Right Attorney

There’s no such thing as the “right” attorney for everyone. But there probably is a “right” attorney for you. In other words, you have specific needs and expectations – as well as a unique personality – that will dictate the type of criminal defense attorney that’s best for you in your situation, says Nolo. Use this article as a guide to finding that lawyer!

Last Updated: May 14, 2024

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