Not all lawyers are the same. Although safeguards such as the Bar Exam and the Bar Association tend to weed out the worst candidates, the reality is that some lawyers are a lot better than others, and some are better in certain fields than others.
If you are facing criminal charges in Ohio, the wrong choice of lawyer could result in years of unnecessary incarceration. You should look for the following qualities in a Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer.
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Does Your Lawyer Possess Extensive Criminal Defense Experience?
Criminal law works a lot differently than personal injury law or family law. If Ohio charges you with a criminal offense, you don’t just need “a lawyer”-–you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Every state enforces its own criminal laws, and Ohio is no exception. Although the criminal justice systems of each state are similar, significant differences do exist.
Furthermore, you need a lawyer who is familiar with the players in the local legal system (in this case, Cincinnati). Even if your lawyer lacks experience in the local legal system, membership in a local law firm can make up for this deficiency with teamwork and the right attitude.
Does Your Lawyer Exhibit Strong Communication Skills?
Communication skills are absolutely critical to the practice of criminal defense law, whether the lawyer is advocating for their client in court or seeking a favorable plea bargain with the prosecutor. One way you can judge your lawyer’s communication skills is by explaining your case to them and then asking questions.
If the lawyer provides clear, understandable, and persuasive answers that leave you satisfied and with a sense of clarity, your lawyer is probably a good communicator.
Is Your Lawyer a Good Listener?
Pay special attention to this during your initial consultation. If your lawyer keeps forgetting information you have already told them or vaguely remembers it, your lawyer is probably not listening to you closely. Perhaps they have another client on their mind. This shortcoming could spell disaster for you.
Does Your Lawyer Possess Extensive and Successful Courtroom Experience?
Extensive case experience is not the same as extensive courtroom experience. Your lawyer, or at least the firm your lawyer is a member of, should enjoy a strong track record of winning in court. Without this advantage, the prosecution may not respect your lawyer.
Without this kind of respect, even a favorable plea bargain can be difficult to come by. The fact that most criminal charges end through plea bargaining doesn’t change the need for a lawyer with a winning courtroom record. Winning in court causes prosecutors to offer more generous plea bargains – or perhaps even drop your case altogether.
Does Your Lawyer Have a History as a Former Prosecutor?
Hiring a criminal defense lawyer who used to work as a prosecutor means hiring an advocate who knows how the other side thinks. Even if your lawyer has never worked for a prosecutor’s office, they may be a member of a law firm that includes someone with a background in prosecution. This kind of experience can provide you with a tremendous advantage.
Does Your Lawyer Have Strong Academic Credentials?
Grades aren’t everything, of course – a book cannot teach persuasiveness or street smarts very well. Nevertheless, Ohio law (as well as federal law) is an organized body of knowledge that fits together in certain ways.
Be sure to inquire about your lawyer’s academic track record. Don’t ignore a local education either. A lawyer from the University of Cincinnati, for example, might understand the ins and outs of the local justice system better than someone from Yale.
Has Your Lawyer Received Professional Recognition?
Not all professional awards are the same. In fact, some awards amount to little more than resume padding.
However, the following forms of recognition are reputable:
- Super Lawyers
- Best Lawyers in America
- Martindale-Hubbell AV ratings
- US News America’s Best Law Firms
- The National Trial Lawyers
This is not a complete list of the professional recognition available to lawyers. It is merely a sampling.
Will Your Lawyer Give Your Case Personal Attention?
Will your lawyer handle your case, or will they pass it down to an associate or a paralegal? All law firms make some use of their staff. But you do need to make sure that the lawyer you talked to, who impressed you with their insight and communication skills, will be the one handling your case most of the time. This problem is found most frequently in large or medium-sized firms.
Does Your Lawyer Actually Care About Your Case?
You can almost feel it in your bones. Does your lawyer care about the outcome of your case or your future? You need to get a fix on this before you hire a lawyer. One of the most significant ways to make a difference in a criminal case is simply caring. A lawyer who cares about your case will put much more effort into finding a way to secure you the best possible outcome.
Does Your Lawyer Value Personal Integrity?
A good criminal defense lawyer needs to value personal integrity to win their peers’ respect and properly serve their clients. Does the lawyer raise your suspicions by promising too much, too early? No ethical lawyer will offer you a guarantee on the outcome of your case, for example.
Additionally, your lawyer needs to have a good record with the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). The Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct can provide you with the professional standards your attorney must submit to.
Does Your Lawyer Pay Attention to Detail?
When you conduct an initial consultation with your lawyer, do they ask you a lot of questions? Do they ask you to bring documents? Are these questions detailed, or are they general? No two criminal cases are exactly alike, and a good criminal lawyer understands that the details often make the difference between success and failure. This is particularly important with complex topics such as white-collar crimes.
Can Your Lawyer Keep a Secret?
Every lawyer has a confidentiality obligation to their clients. Confidentiality is an obligation that goes far beyond attorney-client privilege, which prevents your confidential communications with your lawyer from being used against you.
A lawyer’s confidentiality obligation requires them to refrain from speaking about your case to anyone at all unless you give them permission. Normally, however, you should allow your lawyer to discuss your case with colleagues in their own firm.
Do You Like Your Lawyer?
You should like your lawyer. If you don’t, it might be difficult for you to work together. Some lawyers have naturally abrasive personalities. That bothers some people, but it doesn’t bother others. Remember, if you don’t like your criminal defense attorney, the court might not like them either. Rely on your gut instinct.
Find the Best Cincinnati Criminal Defense Attorney For Your Needs
Ultimately, there is no perfect lawyer for everyone. Different clients have different needs, and the qualities of an “ideal” lawyer vary by individual and circumstance. In most cases, your best bet is to choose a firm with several lawyers – all experienced but each with their own particular areas of expertise.