Needle in a HaystackAccording to the American Bar Association, there are nearly 33,000 lawyers practicing in the state of Georgia. As with any profession, not all lawyers are created equally and many simply aren’t the right fit for your particular case. If getting arrested and charged with a crime isn’t stressful enough, finding the right criminal defense attorney can feel overwhelming. So, how do you go about making this incredibly important decision?

Ask for Referrals

Personal experience can speak volumes. Ask your family or friends if they know of any criminal defense attorneys that they would recommend. If you aren’t comfortable asking those in your circle, non-criminal defense attorneys can be a great resource of referrals because they will have had first-hand knowledge of the attorney’s work and organization.

Do Your Homework

Start your own research online. You can visit the American Bar Association which lists state-specific information as well as other professional criminal justice associations such as the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the Association of Federal Defense Attorneys and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. You can also check reviews and referrals from other sites such as Avvo, FindLaw and LawHelp.

Make sure when doing your research that you are focusing on the lawyer’s specialty. For example, you would not go see a podiatrist for an ear infection. You want to find a lawyer with experience defending similar cases to your own.

Ask Questions

Now that you have narrowed your list of criminal defense lawyers that meet your initial requirements, call them and schedule an in-person consultation. Many lawyers will provide a free first-time consultation. This is the most important step in the process as you need to ask questions that will access the lawyer’s areas of expertise, skill level and knowledge. Speak to at least two to three attorneys to gain insight on their approach and make sure that you are comfortable with them. It is important that you have a personal connection with the attorney that is representing you and that their prior experience indicates a good track record and fit for your case. If you are pressed for time, you may call or schedule a video chat.

According to FindLaw, here are some good questions to ask during your consultation:

  • Do you have any experience handling cases similar to mine?
  • How much of my criminal case will you actually handle?
  • How many jury trials have you litigated?
  • How often do you work out plea agreements or ask for a lesser charge?
  • What are your attorney’s fees, and how are they calculated? Do you offer a payment plan?
  • Would you be willing to provide references from clients you’ve helped?

You Get What You Pay For

One of the biggest mistakes our clients make is not hiring an attorney because of the financial commitment. Private attorneys will spend more time on your case as opposed to a public defender. While private attorneys can be costly, keep in mind that it typically can take months before your superior court case is on the docket. Because of this, many attorneys will allow you to make incremental payments over time so long as you have paid in full by the time the court date arrives. This gives you more time to pay rather than paying in one lump sum.

Choosing the right criminal defense attorney can take time, however it is crucial to your case. It’s important not to go it alone. With a good criminal defense attorney, you will have access to expertise and knowledge specific to your case to develop a sound defense strategy.