Who is the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC?
I don’t consider myself to be the best criminal defense attorney in South Carolina or even in Charleston, although that is what I strive for every day, in every client’s case.
Everyone wants to hire “the best.”
What does that even mean? Although there are some objective criteria – who wins the most cases, for example – “the best” attorney will be different for each person.
The question you should be asking is, who is the best lawyer for me and for my case?
That said, below are some ideas for how to choose the best attorney for your case.
How Do I Choose a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Charleston, SC?
The first place you look will most likely be on the internet.
My first bit of advice to you is: don’t believe what you read on the internet. Most claims, information, or reviews that you see on the internet about any attorney are going to be written by or written on behalf of an attorney – an attorney who wants you to hire them. Hopefully, the information you find will be true, but…
First, let’s acknowledge that this article is on an attorney’s website – like anything that you read online, don’t believe it unless you can confirm it independently and it makes sense to you.
Research Local Defense Attorneys
Spend some time researching local attorneys, their backgrounds, and their reputation. That can be difficult – many lawyers do not have much information online other than a website and a media article or two. So, what can you do to research attorneys?
- Begin with their websites or blog – are they credible, do they know the law as relates to your case, and what is their personality and philosophy?
- Check with the SC Bar to see if the attorney has been publicly disciplined. Don’t stop there – read the disciplinary opinions to see what really happened. I know of several attorneys who have received disciplinary opinions and yet they are still phenomenal advocates for their clients…
- Talk to former clients if possible – keeping in mind that no attorney will have all happy clients, you can still get a sense of what the attorney is like and how they treat their clients.
- Talk to friends and family – what attorneys have they used in the past and were they happy with those attorneys?
- Talk to other attorneys in the area – most attorneys will give a noncommittal or vanilla answer if you are asking them about an attorney with a bad reputation – no one should “talk bad” about their competition, and it’s unprofessional. On the other hand, many attorneys will tell you the truth if you are asking about an attorney who has a good reputation in the legal community.
Look for an Attorney Who Focuses on Your Type of Case
I can’t tell you how many times people have asked me a question about real estate, or class action lawsuits, and, when I explain that I am a criminal defense lawyer, they don’t understand. They say, “You’re still a lawyer, right?”
Yes, but every lawyer does not practice every kind of law. I promise you, you do not want a criminal defense lawyer to handle a complex real estate closing. You also do not want a real estate attorney to attempt to defend you in a complex murder trial…
Any attorney can take on any type of case in South Carolina. But, if you are charged with a crime, maybe you should limit yourself to looking at criminal defense lawyers. Makes sense, right?
Talk to Attorneys Before Deciding Which One to Hire
Do some research and choose at least two or three local attorneys that look promising, then go meet with them and talk to them. Ask yourself:
- Are they listening to me? Or, are they listening to themselves talk?
- Do they sound confident?
- Do I “get along” with them? If your attorney annoys you and “rubs you the wrong way,” you are going to have a difficult time working with them.
- Do they seem to have my best interests in mind, or are they spending the entire interview trying to sell themselves?
- Are they comparing themselves to other attorneys or “bad-mouthing” other attorneys? Negative talk about the competition is a sure sign of insecurity – it’s an unethical sales tactic that works great for used car salesman but has no place in an attorney’s office.
- Do I trust them? If an attorney keeps contradicting themselves, or if you feel like they are not going to be “on your side,” that may not be the right attorney for you.
Questions for Potential Attorneys
If you ask a potential attorney a question, and they know that you are “grading” them, you may or may not feel that you can trust their answers. Ask them anyway – you can judge for yourself the truthfulness of their responses, and you may be able to confirm their answers through other sources.
What do you need to know?
- What percentage of cases like yours does the attorney handle?
- How many cases like yours has the attorney handled?
- Will the attorney you are meeting with handle your case, or will they pass it off to another associate in their office? (Not necessarily a deal-breaker, but you need to know, right?)
- How many cases have they tried to a jury? What percentage of their cases end in dismissal and what percentage in guilty pleas?
- How do they determine their fees? Criminal defense attorneys generally charge what is called a “flat fee.” Some will take payments on the flat fee, while others will not accept your case unless you can pay up front. If the attorney charges an initial retainer with an hourly rate or a contingency-type fee, you are probably not talking to a criminal defense attorney (note that contingency fees are unethical in criminal cases – it’s just not an option).
Does the Attorney’s Staff Seem Competent and Helpful?
Some of the best criminal defense lawyers keep a small caseload and don’t use office staff – although an attorney with no office staff may give you pause, it is only one of many considerations you should have.
If the attorney does have office staff – receptionists, paralegals, or investigators – how did they treat you when you called or when you walked through the door? If your first experience is negative before you have even paid the fee, it’s probably only going to go downhill from there…
Also, consider that an attorney’s staff does most of the daily work for the attorney – they often draft motions, letters, communicate with clients and court personnel, and maintain the attorney’s calendar. The best attorney in the world is only as good as their office staff…
Referral Services for Criminal Defense Lawyers
Should I use a referral service to find an attorney?
You can, but the truth is you will be getting a random lawyer that may or may not be the right fit for you.
Prepaid Legal Services: Does not connect you with a defense lawyer who will handle your case from start to finish. I don’t care what they told you when you signed up for the service, criminal defense lawyers do not handle criminal cases for that low of a fee – prepaid legal services are just not a model that works for criminal defense.
Online referral services: There are hundreds of them, some more prominent than others. Regardless of what they claim on their website, they are not connecting you with the perfect attorney for your type of case. For many sites, lawyers pay to get listed and to get referrals from the site. On others, they just list every attorney who signs up for a particular practice area. Either way, it’s a random selection process that may or may not connect you with the “right” lawyer.
Lawyer Referral Service: The SC Bar, like other states, has a “referral service” that you can access through their website. It works just like the other online referral services – the attorneys pay a fee to get listed in whatever practice areas they choose, and you are referred to the next attorney on the list. There is nothing special or personal about it at all, and it’s useless unless you just want a random selection for your attorney.
Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Firm
Am I the best lawyer for you and your case?
I don’t know. If you are charged with a crime in the Charleston area, I might be – if you call and set up an initial appointment, you can figure that out while I’m also figuring out if you are the right client for me. If you choose me as your counsel and if we accept your case, I will work hard to get your case dismissed, find an acceptable outcome under the circumstances, or win your case at trial.
Call now at (843) 808-2100 or use our contact form to set up a free initial consultation today.