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Guide to Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Attorney Patrick O'Keefe standing in front of Lansing court house.

You may be facing criminal charges, or you might be seeking justice for yourself or a loved one. Either way, it’s critical to find the right criminal defense attorney to handle your case.

We know this is a difficult decision—that’s why we’ve put together this detailed guide on hiring a criminal defense lawyer.  If getting justice is important to you, you need to know how to find an attorney you can trust.

Explore Their Background

The most important consideration when choosing a criminal defense attorney is their background. While 20 years of experience may look good on paper, what area of law that experience is in also matters, as well as whether that experience is coupled with cases won or lost.

You can begin your research by visiting the websites of the law firms you’re considering. Consider their website a reflection of their professionalism. You should find reliable information on how long they’ve practiced, and what type of cases they represent. For example, you can read the results of certain types of cases as well as client testimonials on our website.

Some cases require a certain skill set and are more complex than other cases. For instance, if you have a DUI case, you’ll want a lawyer specializing in DUI cases because they can be so complicated. There are many variables and outside factors that must be considered, as well as errors that could have been made in your DUI testing.

A lawyer that specializes in marriage fraud would not be equipped to handle your DUI case if he or she had never handled one before. The attorney’s attitude and approach to the case are also important. For a statute of limitations defense, for example, you may need a more aggressive attorney.

It’s a good idea to find out what state bar associations the prospective lawyer is a part of, as well as what specific geographic areas they practice in. Ask the lawyer how much experience they have in this particular court. A familiarity with judges and prosecutors can be invaluable. Every court has conservative or liberal players.

It’s vital to find someone that fits with your unique situation in expertise, experience, and attitude. Find an attorney that’s not only experienced but also has expertise in the type of charges you’re facing.

Look for Client Testimonials

If the attorney’s area of expertise matches your needs for the case, the next step is to look at their reviews online. You can often find these on the lawyer’s website, but we recommend verifying them with third-party sources.

You can find unbiased reviews online made by former clients on:

  • This site rates lawyers on a scale of 1-10 and can give you a good idea of their track record.
  • Yelp
  • Google Maps

Word of mouth, in particular, is also a powerful indicator of an attorney’s worth. Ask around in your community.

Check If They Are Board Certified

Keep in mind, the National Board of Trial Advocacy (NBTA) should be a huge component in choosing your criminal defense attorney. The NBTA is a not-for-profit agency that board certifies lawyers by testing them and making sure they have substantial experience in their field.

We are proud to note that attorney Patrick William O’Keefe is the only board-certified attorney in the Lansing area and one of two board-certified attorneys in the entire State of Michigan.

Get a Consultation

Before you decide to hire an attorney, do these three things:

  • Discuss the best-case scenario
  • Prepare for the worst-case scenario
  • Plan for mitigation techniques in case the worst-case scenario happens to get the best plea-negotiation

You want a lawyer that will be candid with you and tell you the truth. While some lawyers will tell you what they think you want to hear, it’s far better to find someone honest. An initial consultation is the best time to get a feel for a firm’s transparency.

Test the Lines of Communication

Responsiveness is a huge factor in choosing a criminal defense attorney. Refer back to testimonials and reviews to find out how well the staff works with clients in the office and add that to your own experience before, during, and after your consultation.

A successful lawyer must get to know your social history, your version of what happened in the case, and more. Said lawyers should want to get to know that information quickly and potentially ask you to come prepared for your first meeting.

Find the Right Criminal Defense Attorney

By now, you know the most important factor in hiring a criminal defense attorney is their ability to handle your unique case. Find an attorney whose practice area and realm of expertise fit with your needs.

Don’t be fooled by the years of experience of a prospective attorney. Their local reputation and rating by legal associations are a more sure sign of whether they can win at trial. It’s imperative that you feel comfortable and confident in your choice—especially when your future, family, and career may be on the line.

For a case evaluation with O’Keefe Law, call us at (517) 273-0421 or fill out our contact form.

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