If you find yourself on the wrong side of the law, you may look to engage the services of a criminal defence lawyer – but how can you be confident you are getting the best possible service from someone you can trust?
There are a number of key qualities that every criminal defence lawyer must have in their interactions with clients.
Here are a few things to look out for to ensure you’re being treated the right way, and that your lawyer is acting in your best interests.
Clear, regular, jargon-free communication
Following your initial consultation with a criminal defence lawyer, you should have a clear idea of what you’ve been accused of, the best way forwards including any legal defences available, and the likely cost for the legal services involved.
If any of these core components of your case have failed to be conveyed, this may demonstrate that the criminal defence lawyer has not communicated clearly.
As your case proceeds, you should receive clear and regular updates of what has occurred, the current situations and the following steps.
Excellent communication skills are the key attribute of a good criminal defence lawyer. For most of the general public, the obscure language of the law can be difficult to decipher, filled with lots of jargon and old fashioned language, it is the job of your criminal defence lawyer to translate these obscure concepts and educate you about the law and your options.
You should always feel comfortable asking questions of your lawyer to clarify anything you don’t understand. In response your criminal defence lawyer should be patient and attentive in addressing your concerns.
Lawyers should use plain language, and shouldn’t try to impress you by speaking only in latin phrases and other legal jargon.
At the end of the day, lawyers are acting as your voice in any upcoming criminal proceedings and you should feel confident and informed about this process.
Empathy, respect and compassion
Being charged with a criminal offence can be an incredibly stressful experience.
A good criminal defence lawyer will show empathy – putting themselves in your position – treat you with respect and show compassion for what you are going through.
He or she should lift some of the burden of what you are going through, and you should never be made to feel your lawyer does not care about your case.
A good criminal defence lawyer does not see their role as merely a job, but an important responsibility towards each and every person who entrusts them.
You should always feel heard when interacting with your lawyer and never feel that your concerns are being dismissed out of hand.
A good criminal defence lawyer will want to know how you’re feeling about the process and address any worries you may have.
Criminal defence lawyers should act without discrimination in advocating for your interests. This includes not treating you differently because of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, disability, age, political opinions, criminal history or the offence you have been accused of.
If you feel disrespected by your current criminal defence lawyer, you should consider changing to another lawyer – one who treats you the right way during this difficult period in your life.
Persistence and doggedness
Going hand-hand-with empathy and compassion is the requirement that a criminal lawyer must put themselves in your corner and fight for the best result in your case; so, adjourning cases from court date to court date while doing inadequate work in between is the mark of a lawyer who you may wish to avoid.
A specialist criminal defence team will have a formidable arsenal at their disposal, from the required up-to-date and extensive knowledge to the know how in respect of preparing and issuing summonses and subpoenas, to engaging forensic and medical experts, to calling in investigative resources – and they will use all of these in the most efficient and effective ways, which can and often does make the difference between achieving a favourable outcome and one that is unjust.
After all, a person who is accused of a criminal offence is placed in a position where they are required to face the government and its institutions – which have significant resources and experienced investigative and prosecutorial agencies at their disposal – and a person who is in the sights of these bodies must have a team behind them who are able to meet and defeat the accusations.
So, it’s good idea to ensure your criminal defence team has not only formulated a defence strategy and advised you about the way it is to be implemented, but that they are putting all of their efforts and resources into executing that strategy – throughout the proceedings.
So. for example, always ensure you ask for a copy of the formal representations to prosecutors when you are seeking the withdrawal or downgrading of charges, and ensure they are comprehensive – not just a few pro-forma pages.
Ensure that your lawyer actually meets with the prosecutor in your case for a ‘case conference‘ and that he or she has pressed your position, and does not just brush the (now formally required) case conference off as a five-minute formality – thereby resulting in your case going on for longer than it should.
Relevant specialisation and experience
The mere fact a lawyer is admitted to practice as a legal practitioner does not mean they have the specialisation or experience to undertake criminal defence work to a high quality standard.
Criminal defence lawyers are experts in not only the criminal law, but in formulating and executing defence strategies that bring about optimal outcomes in criminal cases.
Being a good criminal lawyer is perhaps even more than a full-time job, and your lawyer should be an experienced specialist; so, just like you wouldn’t go to a general medical practitioner for heart surgery, it may not be a wise decision to engage a law firm that spreads itself across more than one field of legal practice.
It’s also important that you seek out criminal law firms managed and supervised by Accredited Criminal Law Specialists when seeking a criminal defence lawyer. An accredited specialist is a lawyer with at least 5 years of experience in a particular field of law that has been certified by the Law Society of NSW as an expert in the area.
Each member of the defence team at Sydney Criminal Lawyers® is an experienced, specialist criminal defence lawyer and the firm is spearheaded by Ugur Nedim – an Accredited Criminal Law Specialist who has consistently held this certification since 2005.
Some firms have been around for a long time but have changed hands many times in terms of their owners, their partners and their shareholders.
By contrast, Sydney Criminal Lawyers has been around for more than two decades under the same founder and has employed the same, rare client-focused philosophy since its founding – and this will never change.
Unlike several other law firms, our lawyers are not required to meet ‘budgets’ – our focus is on high-quality criminal defence work, and on taking care of our clients.
Accused of a criminal offence?
There are many law firms who will claim to be ‘the best’ in criminal defence, and it can be difficult to determine whether they will properly look after your interests and use their specialist skills and experience to fight for the best possible outcome in your case.
And while it’s difficult to know whether their claims are consistent with their outcomes, it’s a good idea to look into the experiences of others who have used the firm, their record of results (especially in cases similar to yours) and make sure they are experienced, true specialists in the field relevant to your situation.