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NYC Criminal Defense Attorney

How to Find the Best NYC Criminal Defense Attorney


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

  1. 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.
  2. 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, not panicked.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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:
  7. 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 junior associate?
  • 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?
  1. 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 credibility problem)
  1. 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?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.