Criminal-defense practice is quite different from civil practice, at least when it comes to marketing. Civil lawyers can invite their client prospects to lunch, play golf with them, or send them newsletters about the latest goings-on in their industries. Criminal-defense lawyers, on the other hand, are like heart surgeons—once-in-a-lifetime acquaintances you meet under difficult circumstances.
Some lawyers have adopted used-car-salesmen marketing schemes to differentiate themselves from the rest of their colleagues.
If you surf the websites of local criminal-defense lawyers for any length of time, you'll notice that many of them tout their prior results, as if those should sway you to choose one of them as your lawyer. We've had good results in the past, but, frankly, they aren't relevant to you. For instance, we were able to procure the dismissal of an indictment for a young girl who was facing twenty years or more of federal time on drug charges. We were able to obtain the dismissal based on the Speedy Trial Act. Unless your case has the exact same fact pattern, it's of no use to you. So, really, prior results don't carry all that much weight.
A prospective client was charged federally with violating the Clean Air Act by falsifying car inspections. He asked, "Have you handled this kind of case before?" We had to say no. Why? Because it was the only the third case in the country where the federal government had pressed charges like this. Did we not have the expertise to handle it? We did because we're criminal-defense attorneys. As we said before, no two cases are the same. If a criminal-defense lawyer has never handled a case like yours, that doesn't mean he isn't qualified to take it on. He, in fact, might be the best lawyer for the case.
One exception to this is federal court experience. If you are charged federally, make sure your criminal-defense lawyer has federal experience. It not the specific charge that counts, but knowing how the federal system works that does.
The prevailing thought with the public is if a lawyer used to put people in jail for a living, he is probably the best guy to keep them out. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, some former prosecutors make for good defense lawyers, but some of the very best defense lawyers never prosecuted anyone. If you want to hire a criminal-defense lawyer who touts his prosecutorial experience, ask him why he isn't prosecuting now.
Surf the net for any length of time and you'll find many lawyer sites touting their aggressive lawyers who will fight for you. Some go to the lengths of posting photos of dark-suited men and women with their mean faces on. If we were being investigated by the government, we'd probably pass on those lawyers and look for one who's known for his ingenuity or creativity.
What You're Really Looking For
What you want is a talented and respected lawyer, maybe one that's actually a bit bookish because the practice of law these days is just as much about precedent and paper as it is witnesses and evidence. We, for instance, maintain an active appellate practice because the research and writing of appellate briefs makes us better trial lawyers. It's usually the lawyer who thinks outside the box that wins the day, not the one with a growl.