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Picking a Criminal Defense Lawyer

To get through my education, I worked as a contractor. I built houses, decks, and did virtually anything else someone might need. I learned a valuable lesson about the business. Certain things cost a certain amount. When one contractor promised to do a job for less, I often wondered how they could afford it. After all, the cost of material was the same for everyone. The cost of subcontractors was the same. But there was always someone who promised to do it cheaper, often a lot cheaper. The answer is pretty simple. They were cutting corners somewhere—either in time, quality, or materials.

The opposite question also arose. How could someone charge more for the same job? The answer became obvious when I saw some of the work product. The quality was better, the work was done when promised, and customer service was exemplary. The answer lies in a simple fact: You can’t fake experience and professionalism.
These are valuable lessons for someone choosing an criminal defense lawyer. In today’s market, virtually everyone is a criminal defense lawyer. Due to the economic climate, many attorneys have left the bigger law firms seeking the “quick fees” they can get doing criminal defense. Many so-called DUI lawyers have never even had an OVI or DUI trial, or, for that matter, any type of criminal jury trial.

Years of experience practicing civil law, dealing with contracts, or handing injury case does not equate to the criminal defense arena. The reverse is also true. A life-long criminal defense attorney is not likely to have the same ability to handle these other “civil” matters.

In short, experience counts. Long-term relationships in the criminal system count. And years of jury trial experience count. An attorney, like an experienced carpenter, has learned the tricks of the trade over many years, dealing with many jobs. Creativity and “outside the box” legal thinking are born from experience. These things can’t be gained overnight.

So what does this mean for someone who needs help, and needs it fast? Look carefully. Learn about the attorney’s background. Have a face-to-face meeting if possible. Ask about the attorney’s experience.

Budget is an important factor. But don’t be lured in by the cheapest. You wouldn’t necessarily pick the cheapest contractor to work on your home. Don’t put your freedom in the hands of the cheapest lawyer.

But what about choosing between two similar attorneys? Use your instincts. Your gut feel is probably correct. Make sure the person you hire is sympathetic to your situation. You may end of working with this person for months, or even years. Like a bad relationship, communication and understanding are everything. If those are absent, or if one side is not comfortable, the relationship won’t work. And you don’t get a “do-over.”

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