Of course, finding a good criminal defense attorney is much easier said than done. I can remember thinking before I practiced law that all lawyers must be pretty much equal. My logic was that they all have to graduate law school and pass the bar exam, so they must all be pretty good. With the benefit of hindsight and experience, I know that this could not be further from the truth. While the bar exam is difficult, passing it proves one thing. It proves that at one point in the lawyer’s life they were willing to put a lot of time and effort into studying in order to earn their license to practice law. It does not prove that they are presently a hard-worker. Moreover, the bar exam tests general knowledge of the law related to contracts, torts, property and a host of other topics that have nothing to do with criminal defense. To be sure, the exam does cover criminal law, criminal procedure, the rules of evidence and constitutional law, but not in depth. Moreover, the exam does not test things like creativity and public speaking, two hallmarks of an effective criminal defense attorney.
So what is the best method of finding a good criminal defense attorney? To be sure, merely charging a lot of money is no guarantee at all. In fact, some of the worst attorneys charge some of the highest fees. So while price is not the most important factor, it should still be considered. The test that I recommend is this. If possible, you should watch the prospective attorney handle a trial or testimonial hearing in court. To the extent this is not possible due to time constraints, you should request to see a copy of some of the lawyer’s courtroom transcripts. Any attorney worth their salt will have contested enough motions and trials to have ordered a copy of their own transcripts to use for impeachment and/or an appeal. The transcript itself should also give you a good idea of their courtroom abilities and willingness to fight for their clients.