How to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer: Six Factors to Consider
Most people who hire a criminal defense attorney have never been in trouble with the law before and have little idea on how to find the best criminal defense lawyer for their needs.
We would like for you to consider hiring Bill Stradley for your defense, but whoever you hire, here is a practical list of six tips in how to hire a criminal defense lawyer in Texas:
1. Are they Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization?
The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was formed in 1974 by the Supreme Court of Texas at the request of the State Bar of Texas as a means of helping consumers find experienced, qualified specialized legal counsel. There’s roughly 70,000 lawyers in Texas, but being a generalist may not prepare a lawyer to handle a specific area of the law.
You wouldn’t want a roofer to be doing your electrician work just as you wouldn’t want a generalist to do your important criminal case. To date, there’s a little less than 150 Board Certified Criminal Defense lawyers in Houston.
Are there excellent Houston lawyers who are not board certified? Yes. But often it would be difficult, especially for a non-attorney to identify who they are.
More importantly, if an attorney has the experience and ability to become Board Certified in Criminal Law, why haven’t they done it? If you interview an attorney who says they do criminal law but isn’t Board Certified, ask why. It’s not an expensive, difficult or time-consuming process if you have ample expertise in criminal law.
You can learn more about the Texas Board of Legal Specialization at “Why Choose a Texas Board Certified Lawyer.”
2. How many years of experience do they have in Criminal Defense Law?
The skills and strategy of prosecuting criminal cases are not identical to those for defending criminal matters. Though certainly prosecution skills can be a great training ground for criminal defense, it’s worth finding out how many years an attorney has defended the accused.
It can be an abrupt transition for a prosecutor to learn how to defend cases, not have the government pay for necessarily investigations, and learn the specialized techniques criminal defense lawyers use regularly.
3. Do they have experience in prosecuting cases?
The best training ground for criminal defense attorneys is being former prosecutors. They learn what techniques prosecutors use, so then it makes it easier to counter those moves. In addition, prosecutors are forced to try many cases in a short period of time. The way to be a better advocate is to get a lot of experience being in front of a judge and jury, and there is no substitute for going through the prosecution experience.
Working at the District Attorney’s office also gives insight on how the process works from the prosecution’s perspective.
Are the good criminal defense lawyers that have never prosecuted cases? Yes, but it may be hard to identify them or discover whether they’ve received even the basic training that most prosecutors receive. Some criminal defense attorneys may brag that they’ve never been on the prosecution side, but that might be a bit like bragging that they have less experience and education.
4. Do you communicate well with your lawyer? Do they give you personal, one-on-one service?
Most people accused of a crime have never been in trouble with the law before. It can be a emotionally challenging feeling when some see you as a criminal. Your relationship with your criminal lawyer is one that requires a great deal of trust, confidence, caring. You need a lawyer who is both approachable to you but able and aggressive in the courtroom.
And it doesn’t matter if you feel a rapport with your lawyer if the case ends up with some associate with the law firm.
Find out who is going to be handling your case and whether you feel comfortable working with that lawyer.
5. Do you feel comfortable with the lawyer being your representative in the courthouse, your face to judges, prosecutors, juries?
Not only is it important for your lawyer to be able and approachable, you also need someone who you feel comfortable will be able to communicate to judges, prosecutors and juries. Being a good book lawyer isn’t enough–you need someone who is skilled in both negotiations and trials.
Ask yourself as you are interviewing a lawyer: Would you feel comfortable with this person being your public face to the judicial system?
This is essential. Law schools do not choose students based on who has interpersonal skills. Though a law student may be able to get through school and pass the bar based on just study skills, real-world lawyering is different.
6. Are you comfortable with their fee structure?
Nobody wants to pay too much for a service. But it is mistake to have low price be your first priority when hiring a criminal defense lawyer.
Typically, fees don’t just involve the time involved with the case, but also factor in the experience, qualifications and ability of the lawyer to get results. Law is more of an art than a science. There is no one right way of handing a criminal case as dealing with prosecutors, police, grand juries, and judges involves great nuance and experienced judgment.
Due to the nature of criminal practices, it is most common for lawyers to be paid up front. In addition, there should be a clear written fee agreement.
Some criminal lawyers do not charge for an entire representation but rather per court setting. This practice is not common among experienced attorneys and in the long run can lead to unexpected costs as the legal process tends to go a lot slower than people would like. In addition, if you get a poor result due to on-the-job discount lawyering, it can cost you more in the long run.
Want to learn more about fees? Please visit our fee page.
Consider Bill Stradley for Your Criminal Case.
Please set up a time for a free initial consultation with Bill Stradley at (713) 224-5455. Do not delay. Often early representation by a qualified, experienced criminal defense attorney can get better results.