By Collin County Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
It’s hard to tell us apart on the web!
I was recently asked by a long-time friend on the other side of the country to evaluate a lawyer who had been referred to them. I surprisingly found it to be a somewhat frustrating exercise though I would think I know what I’m looking for.
Like finding the right detergent, trying to pick through the web to figure out who you want to visit with to handle a criminal case is tricky. Here’s my modest attempt at helping you weigh certain information, claims, and anything else you may come across online in choosing a criminal attorney.
Checking the Lawyer’s Standing with the State Bar
You can log on to the State Bar of Texas web page to search and check the licensing and disciplinary history of every lawyer. Every state has a similar web page run by their licensing entity as far as I’m aware.
Lawyer Web Pages
Some lawyers are better at having an online presence than others. A sharp web page can mean a lawyer really has their act together and you might be able to extrapolate that into them being detail oriented with your case. On the other hand I know many outstanding lawyers whose web pages look terrible because they simply don’t spend time on them or they might not be too internet savvy. I personally tend to shy away from lawyers whose web page looks like a phone-book ad or who claim to practice effectively in areas ranging from dog-bites to deeds to DWI. A practitioner of many trades tends to be a master of none.
There are lots of us running around! I enjoyed my time as an assistant district attorney and I feel as though it gives me a bit of an insight as to how my now-opponents think. The experience certainly allowed me to learn many hard lessons in the courtroom which certainly make me a better lawyer today. In many ways moving from being a prosecutor to a defense lawyer is a natural and common career progression in criminal law. I should also say I know many, many terrific criminal defense lawyers who never spent a day at the DA’s office. Their learning curve was much harder so my hat is certainly off to them.
There are a few negatives to being a former prosecutor. First is some have a difficult time making the transition to being a criminal defense lawyer. They may still harbor judgment towards people accused of a crime — an unacceptable trait for a defense lawyer. They also may not be able to spot issues or “think” like a criminal defense lawyer for some time either.
Tough talk can only be backed up effectively with objective results. I don’t fault lawyers for talking about “how many pushups they can do” because I recognize some honestly feel this way and they are also trying to distinguish themselves from their competition online. Your lawyer should never be afraid of upsetting opponents or witnesses in trial.
There are two problems with tough-talk from a lawyer on the internet. First is that anyone can say it; and second is sheer aggressiveness in the courtroom isn’t always the right approach in a given case.
I try less to generalize about how “tough” or “relentless” I am and try to focus more on my results. Nothing succeeds like success. Besides, I’m sure I’ve gotten just as many Not Guilty verdicts being nice to everyone in the courtroom as when I’ve been a tough-guy burrowing under everyone’s skin.
Some web pages try to give you a score for particular lawyers. As long as the score is derived objectively from sources such as peer review within the legal community and the lawyer’s disciplinary history then it may be a good indicator of how well respected the lawyer is. Some pages, though, require the lawyer to participate or patronize the service in order to be ranked — so a bad score (or not showing up in the ranking at all) isn’t necessarily because the lawyer is bad.
Give more weights to positive reviews than negative ones. A positive review is indicative both a good result and a client who is so pleased with the services they feel strongly enough to take the extra time to comment. While three or four negative reviews scattered online may certainly be indicative of a problem — an isolated bad review may be for many reasons despite a good result in a case. No lawyer can please every client every time.
Promises or Guarantees
No lawyer should ever guarantee you a result online under any circumstance. As an attorney, we deal with difficult variables in every case which we simply cannot control. In Texas, it is not ethical to guarantee results. I can’t imagine other state’s allow it either.
These are just a few pointers in your search. I hope it helps!
*Jeremy Rosenthal is Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and licensed by the Supreme Court of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice about any situation you should speak directly to a licensed attorney in your state.