How to Find the Best / Top NYC Criminal Defense Attorney
John was working in the accounting department of a major hospital in Manhattan.
He was confronted one day about discrepancies in certain transactions
he approved and which caused large sums of money to go missing. John spoke
with his manager and several people from human resources about it. They
had lots of questions about certain dates, transactions, and certain documents.
He was asked to provide a written statement where he was just asked to
write down the same things that he just told them about. Several weeks
later, John was surprised to receive a knock on the door at 6am. An investigator
from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office was at the door and
showed John his badge. John invited him inside his apartment and sat down
with the investigator for a few minutes. The investigator asked John lots
of the same questions that John was asked at work. After this meeting,
the investigator told John that he would be in touch and left. John became
understandably worried about his situation. He just got married, had a
baby on the way, is a certified public accountant with a promising career,
and had never been in any real trouble before. John felt under immense
pressure and was having trouble sleeping. John knew he needed help from
a lawyer. After doing a little research, he sees he needs a criminal defense
attorney. In place as large as Manhattan, were should he turn? When John
Googled best criminal defense attorney, he got some names. When he searched
for criminal defense attorneys who handle grand larceny cases, he got
other names. He thought of asking a friend of his for a referral but then
decided not to because he didn’t want his friend to know that he
was under investigation. Also, just because his friend had a name, it
didn’t mean that his friend’s choice for a top criminal defense
attorney would be actually be a good lawyer or the right lawyer for John’s case.
Finding the best criminal defense attorney can be a daunting process. It may seem like you’re looking for a needle in a haystack; a perfect
lawyer amongst thousands of different options. Compounding this pressure
is that the person searching is often the person who was or will be arrested
so the process of finding the best criminal defense attorney can be made
more difficult due to psychological stress.
15 things to consider when looking for the Top NYC Criminal Defense Attorney
for Your Case
Stop and Think. Good news. If you’re reading this, you’re already better off
than many people who hire a lawyer quickly and without thinking about
whether that lawyer is a good fit for them or their case. Finding the
best NYC Criminal Defense Attorney absolutely starts with slowing down,
catching your breath, and making it an important issue.
Don’t rush. Being arrested or investigated is frightening. Finding the top NYC criminal
defense lawyer for you and your case takes time. If it’s a serious
case, take things slowly and resist the urge to hire the first lawyer
you call over the phone. Also, don’t be frightened into hiring someone
right away. The best NYC criminal defense attorney for you and your case
will not only make you only feel fear and only fear during the consultation.
You may feel more fearful based on some of the things you discuss, but
your overall impression should not be purely doom and gloom. You should
feel that you received an honest and frank assessment of a difficult situation,
Experience. Let’s divide this into 2 equally powerful parts: Quality and Quantity.
- Quality of experience. Each day you’re employed as a lawyer could
mean different things for different lawyers. Some may work as a junior
associate in a small and slow law firm where they rarely work on cases,
and when they do, they split their time between divorce, personal injury,
bankruptcy, and criminal cases. For an attorney like this, even after
decades of practice they may have spent very few total hours inside a
criminal courthouse, zero hours spent defending a case like yours, no
trial experience, and very little understanding about the possible consequences
you’re facing. On the other end of the spectrum is an attorney who
(1) has spent every day involved in a busy criminal practice located in
the same city as your case, (2) spends 100% of his/her time with criminal
cases only, (3) has handled thousands of criminal cases, (4) has excellent
career credentials. Many clients find that former prosecutors make some
of the best NYC criminal defense attorneys because (1) becoming a prosecutor
isn’t easy and entails a competitive selection and background process,
(2) new prosecutors are given extensive training in NYC criminal law which
law school often fails to do, (3) prosecutors gain rapid criminal case
experience, (4) because the prosecutor files charges, he/she gains a unique
prospective in what types of factual situations could result in charges.
- Quantity of experience. Would you want to hire a doctor to perform live
saving surgery if that doctor had never performed surgery before? No,
probably not. Hiring a top NYC criminal defense attorney means you’re
looking for a reasonable quantity of experience. There’s no precise
answer here except that generally speaking, the more you see, the more
you’ve seen. So, a criminal defense lawyer who’s been practicing
criminal law in Manhattan for 15 years may be better prepared to handle
unforeseen twists and turns in your case than an attorney who only has
5 years of experience.
Reputation. A top NYC Criminal Defense Attorney will possess an excellent reputation
in the community but this will be harder to measure than his/her experience.
The problem is that the most available way to research a lawyer’s
reputation is to look at online reputation which is often based on client
reviews and clients may not be in the best position to judge whether they
had a good lawyer versus a lawyer who had great bedside manner. This is
a problem in medicine too. After I see my doctor, if the hospital asks
me to review him, how am I supposed to do this? I never went to medical
school and have no idea whether he ordered the right tests or whatever.
Still, online reviews are a good factor to take into consideration. Recognition
in the larger community is another good way to gauge reputation. The best
NYC criminal defense attorneys often will have been quoted or featured
in the news. This is independent validation. The news/media company has
concluded, on their own, that the lawyer is knowledgeable enough to add
value to their publication.
Meet them! There are some things you can buy online or over the phone but lawyers
are not one of them. When you hire the best NYC criminal defense attorney
for your case, you are also getting a human being and so it’s also
about getting the right personality. Criminal cases can last for months
or longer. Any decent lawyer will be expensive. The outcome could affect
the rest of your life. If you hire the wrong lawyer, it will create problems
that are not easily fixed. By meeting in person with a NYC criminal defense
attorney for the initial consultation (1) it shows that you’re taking
it seriously, (2) it allows you to judge the quality of the attorney’s
office, (3) you can more easily judge how personable, experienced, attentive,
and polite the attorney is. Again, NYC criminal cases can last for months
so these factors are important. I generally tell people to meet at least
2 or 3 lawyers in person and it
should not matter if they offer a free consultation or charge a small fee because you should keep focused like a laser on 1 thing: get the best
criminal defense attorney for me and my case.
Credibility. As the old saying goes, “Believe nothing, no matter where you read it, or who said it, no matter
if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own
common sense.” Every situation is different, but most of the time, you will get
a mixture of good and bad news from a NYC criminal defense attorney when
you are asking about a possible or likely outcome to your case. If its
only good news or only bad news, be skeptical – there should probably
be a mixture of good and bad. Maybe most of it is good news and only a
little bad news, but this is probably more accurate than nothing but pure
good news. A top NYC criminal defense attorney should be able to explain
how they arrive at whatever conclusion they make about your situation
using plain language that you can easily understand.
Don’t ignore a bad feeling. If you got a bad feeling when meeting with a lawyer, don’t ignore
this. It could be that something they said or did during the initial consultation
was a red flag. Better safe than sorry.
License. Getting the best NYC criminal defense attorney for your case should also
include some due diligence on your part. Make sure that the attorney’s
license exists and that he/she in good standing in New York. You can do
this easily online here:
Ask the right questions. One of the most common frustrations that people have when trying to find
the best NYC criminal defense attorney, is what questions to ask. Here
are a few:
- How long have you been practicing law? How much of this has been devoted
to criminal cases? About how much of your criminal cases have been in
NYC? About how many cases have you defended where your client was facing
the same or similar charges?
- If I hire you, will you be working on my case and with me in court or a
- Have you drafted and filed motions in a case like mine before?
- Have you gone to trial on a case like mine before?
- How likely is going to trail in a case like mine?
- What is the worst possible outcome for me in court? What is the best? What
should I expect, given what I’ve told you?
Don’t ask these questions (they are not helpful)
- What outcome can you guarantee? (NY law prohibits criminal defense lawyers
from guaranteeing a particular result)
- Should I hire you or go to the public defender? (The public defender is
like a shelter – it’s there if you need it but not really
an alternative to an apartment)
- If I paid you extra, can you guarantee me no jail (suppose the lawyer said
yes - would you really want to hire him/her? This could trigger a major
Availability. So you’ve finally found one of the top criminal defense lawyers
in New York City. You found that he/she is highly qualified, met him/her
for the consultation, checked the license, asked all the right questions
and got great answers, but they either won’t be personally handling
your case or is impossible to get on the phone or communicate with. Is
this attorney the best NYC criminal defense lawyer for your case?
Professionalism. Attorneys, like doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors, are professionals
and should treat you in a dignified, respectful, and polite manner. The
best NYC criminal defense attorney for you and your case should be someone
who behaves in a professional and polite manner. Sometimes, people mistakenly
think that the best criminal defense attorney should be rude, loud, and
obnoxious because this is perceived as aggressive however this is a misunderstanding
of how the system works. In court, the impression the judge, opposing
attorney, and jury has of you and your attorney will go a long way in
shaping your outcome. A rude attorney may be a big distraction from the
merits of your defense which could lead to an unfavorable outcome.
Strategy. Finding the top NYC criminal defense attorney for you and your case will
also come down to finding that attorney with the right strategy. Generally
speaking, this strategy should probably include a careful review of the
evidence before doing anything else. Sometimes, clients suggest going
to court or to the prosecutor to show to them that they are innocent or
that the person who complained about them is lying. Other times, clients
want their attorneys to reach out to the police or prosecutor before charges
are filed to argue that the client is being framed or is innocent. These
strategies are usually wrong. Completely wrong. Imagine you are babysitting
your niece and nephew and you walk in on them suddenly while they are
playing because you heard something break, and your nephew is standing
there nodding his head “no”, with wide eyes, and pointing
at his sister while she is just standing there calmly. They both deny
breaking the glass but your nephew is more aggressive and louder in his
denial. Which would you initially suspect? Aggressively denying something
even before you’ve been accused or before you’ve heard the
argument against you doesn’t only make you look bad, it tends to
waive your right to remain silent which is one of the best tools for avoiding
severe consequences. The best NYC criminal defense attorneys will custom-craft
a winning strategy for you and your case, not simply apply the same strategy
that you first suggested. The best strategy will also come down to the
particulars of how the system works and so a highly experienced NYC criminal
attorney will be in a better position to come up with a winning strategy
than an attorney who also handles other types of cases or practices elsewhere.