If you get charged with a traffic infraction or crime in your own neighborhood, it is easier to hire a lawyer, like a criminal defense lawyer Fairfax VA trusts. You can ask friends, co-workers and neighbors for recommendations. But what do you do when you get in trouble in an area about which you are unfamiliar? You get on the internet and everyone says that they are great. What are the factors to look for in choosing a lawyer to help you defend yourself on a Traffic or Criminal charge?
First, every attorney’s website says that he/she is the best. You would never expect a criminal lawyer or a traffic lawyer to say, “I am just learning, but I will try hard!” Every lawyer in every state is bound by the State Bar’s ethics rules which mandate that there cannot be any false information on a lawyer’s web site. While an inexperienced lawyer will not say “I have never tried a case…” that lawyer cannot say, “I have tried thousands of cases.” Thus, on every web site there will be objective information that will let you know whether that lawyer will provide quality representation. When on a lawyer’s web site, by-pass the “I am the best” hype and look for these few objective criteria.
- Years of experience. Look for someone who is not learning on your case and has “seen it before.” A surgeon who is just out of medical school has only done a few surgeries. A surgeon who has been practicing medicine for 20 years has done thousands. Who would you rather have as your surgeon? The answer is obvious, you want the doctor who has previously seen every complication that may arise. You do not want the surgeon who is learning on your body.
- Type of experience. Look for former Prosecutors. Prosecutors handle hundreds upon hundreds of cases every year. For example, when I was a Traffic Court Prosecutor, I would handle up to 10 DUI’s and 8-15 Reckless Driving cases every day. Each defense attorney who came to Court that day was usually handling only one case. Thus, every day a Prosecutor acquires 10 to 15 times the experience that a defense attorney gets.
- Awards. Look for awards based on surveys of other lawyers. Every lawyer seems to have an award. That is because there are organizations that lawyers can join for the sole purpose of giving themselves an award. It reminds me of winery awards where wineries have tasting contests and give each other “gold medals.” In my opinion, the only awards that are worth anything are those where an organization polls other attorneys and asks, “If you had X problem, other than someone in your firm, who would you hire?” Most of these types of surveys seems to be done by local magazines.
- Teaching other lawyers. Look for lawyers who other lawyers pay to teach them the law. Every state bar has continuing legal education (“CLE’s”) requirements. These are classes that lawyers must take every year to make sure they are current on the law. Lawyers usually pay for these, and they do not want to pay money to learn from a person who just graduated law school, or from a lawyer who has a reputation for not knowing the law. Thus, if you find a lawyer who has taught continuing legal education classes to other lawyers, you can be confident that other lawyers hold him/her in high regard.
Thanks to our friends and contributors from Albo & Oblon LLP for their insight into criminal defense.