Traits to Look for in a Criminal Defence Lawyer
If you have been charged with a crime, choosing legal representation is one of the most critical decisions you can make. The best legal counsel across Canada share common traits – communication skills, knowledge of the law, trustworthiness, experience, etc. Therefore, you may want to look for these qualities during your consultations.
From the moment they first meet a client to the resolution of the case, a lawyer is in constant communication with a variety of people. They must work with the Crown prosecutorLawyers who prosecutes charges on behalf of the Crown and suggest ways the case can be dealt with before trial. If that is not possible, a criminal lawyer has to engage with the court staff, the judge, and perhaps a jury at trial, detailing your side of the story in the best possible light.
Your defence may hinge on jurors understanding complex legal issues or a convoluted precedent in similar cases. Your lawyer has to present all this information clearly and succinctly to the court and show why it is relevant to your defence.
Good communication is more than just using plain language or writing well-crafted submissions. A successful lawyer knows how to engage with the judge, jury members, witnesses and the prosecution. While lawyers do not have to be bilingual, they must be fluent in the language of the court. That involves much more than just knowing relevant legal terms. Those who can effectively communicate their ideas to the various players in the legal system will be the ones who can secure the best outcomes for their clients.
One of the key attributes of a good communicator is the willingness to be a good listener. For criminal lawyers, that starts when they take your case and hear your account of events that led to the charge. They will want to know all the details, even information you may feel may be harmful to your defence. After all, it is better that they learn that at the outset instead of having it revealed by the prosecution during the trial.
You may be nervous when talking to your lawyer about the charge you are facing. A good lawyer will understand that and patiently listen as you speak about and respond to your queries as they arise. They cannot change the underlying facts of your case, but an effective lawyer will spend the time necessary to understand your wishes. That understanding will help form your defence.
Our legal system is staid and formal on many levels, drawing on centuries of tradition and legal precedent. But an effective criminal lawyer will know that every case presents unique opportunities to apply the law to best suit their client. A good lawyer will find creative ways to handle your case while staying within the boundaries of the law.
There are many moving parts in any legal case. A good criminal lawyer will have the ability to launch the legal defence that is suited to you. They will also be able to judge how the case is progressing and respond when the need arises. They will weigh the pros and cons of making a decision related to a case and choose the option that best serves you. They should also be able to anticipate the Crown prosecutor’s next step. They can then advise you on what to expect, giving you confidence as the case proceeds.
A criminal defence lawyer should always be respectful of others. Arrogance or being rude to witnesses will not be well received by the court and could ultimately hurt your case. At the same time, a criminal lawyer should be firm and confident. They should never use tactics that are illegal or dishonest. As officers of the court, lawyers must act with integrity and professionalism and not place the community's confidence in the legal system at risk.
Starting with the initial consultation, a good lawyer will set realistic goals about what can be achieved in a client’s case. If the evidence against you is overwhelming, your lawyer should not suggest that an acquittal is in reach. Instead, they should inform you of what will happen if you plead guilty and the chances of receiving a light sentence or probation. The best lawyers are always honest with clients, even about ugly truths that may soon be realized.
There is no substitute for experience when it comes to criminal law. Experienced lawyers will know what line of defence stands the best chance of success after they meet with a client and review disclosure provided by the Crown. They will be able to challenge the credibility of those testifying against you, find gaps in the Crown’s case and know how to frame those to the court.
Seasoned criminal lawyers will also have cultivated strong professional relationships with Crown prosecutors, judges and court staff. This is invaluable when it comes to knowing what sort of plea deals, or other legal arrangements, are open to you. If you are facing serious criminal charges, don't put your freedom in the hands of a lawyer with limited experience. Always request references and consider their track record in defending clients.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this blog is for general educational purposes only and is not intended as legal advice. Each case is unique and the laws discussed may not apply to your specific situation. Please consult a qualified lawyer in your area for personalized guidance. The information in this blog is not guaranteed to be accurate or up-to-date and should not be relied upon as a substitute for consultation with a professional.