What’s the Number One Quality You Need in a Criminal Defense Lawyer?


I am a criminal defense attorney. That doesn’t make me a special person. But it does give me a fly on the wall view of the practice of criminal defense law that most people outside the profession don’t get to see. And as you might expect, within my profession there are some good apples and some bad apples, some people that know what they are doing and some that don’t, and some exceptional attorneys and some terrible ones. But unless you are a part of the profession it is hard to tell. It’s kind of like hiring a plumber or an auto mechanic; anyone can dress like a plumber and talk like a plumber, but we all know there are some plumbers you’d leave at home all day to work and some you wouldn’t let near your sink without watching over them.While I’m not here to give you an end all be all plan for finding the right criminal defense attorney, I am going to talk a little bit about one quality for attorneys in general that I think sheds a lot of light on their legal skills and they job they will do for you once you’ve hired them. And that one thing is communication. Find an attorney that has a good communication set up and I will show you an attorney worth hiring.But what do I mean by communication? Well, I mean a couple of things. First, I mean an attorney that will answer your phone calls and return your messages when you leave them. You wouldn’t believe how many attorneys, once they get your money, will just not answer the phone to talk with you no matter what the problem is. This, obviously is the sign of a bad criminal defense attorney, and something you should check on before hiring them. And the easiest way to check on this is to ask them. And by ask I don’t mean just say “do you return phone calls?” because they’ll say “yes.” Ask them what kind of a system they have in place to ensure that your call finds it way to your criminal defense attorney and what steps are then taken to make sure you are called back. If they don’t have a ready answer to this question, it might be time to start looking for someone else.Second, ask your potential criminal lawyer if they have any procedures in place to remind you of upcoming court dates and deadlines for completing any requirements that might be in place by the courts or by you to make yourself look more reputable. If they don’t you might want to look out there for someone else. I’m not saying we, as criminal attorneys need to be babysitters for our clients, but we tend to be much more on top of our calendar than the average person. And a phone call to remind a client of a court date takes five minutes. And the effects of missing can be enormous.For example, I had a buddy recently in Seattle, he got a Seattle DUI, hired this guy (who, by the way, is someone I would not recommend, but I didn’t know him at the time) to help him out who was supposed to be some kind of a great Seattle DUI lawyer. But, he did like most of the shady DUI lawyers in Seattle and took the first deal he was offered and talked my buddy into taking it. Part of the deal included some requirements with some strict deadlines. Well, these deadlines were coming up, my buddy’s DUI lawyer went to court for him and found out when the deadline was supposed to be, and forgot to tell my buddy! So, this deadline comes and goes, the court asks why it wasn’t done, and my buddies criminal defense lawyer just lets my buddy go down in flames! They find him in violation of the agreement, find him guilty of the original charges, and now my buddy is in a world of hurt.Bottom line, choosing a lawyer is difficult, and choosing a criminal defense lawyer is even more difficult as it seems sometimes the less ethical of our profession seem to migrate there from time to time. But you can make a great choice if you look past the smooth talk and try to find out the actual operations of the firm you are looking at. And don’t forget to ask around to see who people have used in the past. Once you’ve paid your money you actually get to see what someone’s made of. Don’t wait too long to choose someone that is right for you.