Finding the Best Criminal Defense Attorney For You
The following is an excerpt from an interview with Maryland criminal defense attorney Seth Okin.
What factors should someone consider when looking for the best criminal defense attorney for their case?
Seth Okin: Comfort. No matter how skilled an attorney may be, if they’re not right for you, you’re going to know it. Someone may be able to claim that they’re the best attorney ever, that they have never lost a case, and we all aspire to be that person, but it’s not right for every client. Some clients prefer certain types of people. The have an ability to trust certain types of people, they have the ability to talk to them. If I’m a client and I’m walking into my office, the number one thing I want to see is that the attorney in front of me still has the ability to listen, and know that I am an individual, that I’m unique. They may have worked on 50 cases just like mine, but as case 51, I am not any of those prior 50 individuals. Everything about me is different. Everything about me is unique. I’m not just a name on a piece of paper. I am John Doe or Jane Doe, I am unique, and I want the attorney to see me for who I am.
When you’re sitting in that chair as the attorney, you’ve got to pay attention to that individual, because if at any point in time they don’t feel comfortable telling you something, you lose that chance to represent them the best way possible. If your client is keeping something from you because you’re judging them, then you’re not doing your job. You can’t judge your client, that’s not what you do – you have a judge doing that, you have a State’s Attorney doing that – you have to support them. If you’re not listening, if you’re not actively engaging them, you’re going to lose them, and if you lose your client, you lose your case.
Are there certain credentials a client should look for in an attorney?
Seth Okin: Yes and no. Some people are more comfortable with an attorney that has been practicing for 40 years, some people are more comfortable with the younger attorney who has that fire, and some people want to see that you have outside credentials. Are you a super lawyer? Are you a top 100 trial lawyer? Are you a top 40 under 40? Did you do the National DUI School? Are you familiar with how the breathalyzer works? Are you someone who has taken sex offender education courses to know what to look for and how to argue those cases? Are you familiar with drugs? Do you know what they look like? Do you do what they test like? If a chemist were to give you a report would you be able to identify what that drug is? Some people want to know that; some people want to see that their attorney has a working knowledge in their field, that they’re actively a part of this and not relying on skills that are 25 years old, or someone who hasn’t bothered to continue their legal education. The laws change, drugs change, and sex offense cases have also changed uniquely.
It’s not just about the individual physically being there. You want an attorney who is active, who’s willing to learn, and who is learning. You want that person to be able to grow, not only their own knowledge base, but your defense.