So, you or someone you care about has been charged with a criminal offence. What now? It’s probably a scary and confusing time, and the first thing on your mind might be securing a strong legal defence. Criminal defence lawyers are there to ensure that the right legal process is followed, that there is no infringement of your fundamental rights, and that you receive the best defence possible. But not all criminal defence lawyers are ‘created equally’. You need to do your homework to find the best criminal defence lawyer so you can so that you are properly protected. But how do you do that? This article will show you how to find the best criminal lawyer in the UK.
In the UK, there is a difference between solicitors and barristers. It’s important that you go to the right one for your circumstances. Solicitors are probably what you are looking for if you’ve just been arrested or fear you might be – they are the lawyers who consult the public. Solicitors then generally hire barristers on behalf of their clients, should it become necessary. Barristers can represent clients in open court, especially in the higher courts where more serious offences are dealt with. But usually, the first step is to find a solicitor.
Word of mouth
There are many places you can look to find a criminal defence solicitor. Many people find one through word of mouth. Being referred to a criminal defence solicitor by someone you trust can give you some piece of mind. That person could tell you about their experience with the lawyer, their feedback what happened, and how much the whole experience cost them. However, this may not be an option for everyone. Moreover, it may not be the best way to find a lawyer that suits your needs, case, or personality.
The internet is another common place to find the best criminal lawyer for your case. You can easily find a lawyer by Googling, for instance, ‘criminal lawyer in the UK’, and find a whole host of options. Lawyers who advertise well will generally show up first, though be wary, because this does not always mean they are the best! While Google and other sites can easily find you a range of lawyers to choose from, there are other things you need to check before engaging them.
When you’ve found some lawyers who interest you, the best thing to do is look to the Law Society, which keeps a record of all licensed solicitors in the UK. The Law Society has a Find a Solicitor tool that can help in the process of checking details, qualifications, etc. It’s a free service that can link you to lawyers who are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), an official body that makes and enforces rules for lawyers. It will not list all the solicitors in the UK, though: only those who choose to be listed or have practice certificates. Using the free tool, you can search by issue and area. For instance, you could search for “crime” and “London” to find a criminal lawyer working in London. Then there are “quality marks” provided by the Law Society. These are accreditations relating to a specific area of law. However, note that the Law Society does not provide legal advice itself. It is there to help you find the best criminal lawyer in the UK for you.
Now that you know how to find a lawyer, how can you find the best criminal lawyer in the UK for you? In the UK, there are what is known as “general practice lawyers”. These are lawyers who do not specialise in any particular field. Then there are lawyers who specialise in particular fields, like commercial or family law. When faced with a criminal issue, you’re going to want someone who knows their way around the criminal justice system. It’s of the utmost importance, then, that you find a lawyer who specialises in criminal law. You can usually find this out from their website or the Law Society tool. Lawyers who specialise in criminal law can also refer you to the best criminal barristers, should the need arise. A lawyer who specialises in criminal law will also have the practical trial experience required to give you your best defence.
Law firms come in all different shapes and sizes, and it is important to find the right fit for you. It is often thought that the larger firms are the best at what they do, but this is not always true. There are also medium- and small-sized firms to consider. When it comes to criminal law, these are often the best. They are prompt and give clients a lot of care when it comes to the case.
The larger law firms have made a name for themselves for a reason – they are successful and have a lot of resources. They often house good talent and have a track record for success. What comes with this though are expensive fees and often impersonal experience. The largest firms are often focused on corporate and commercial work, which is probably not what you are looking for when looking for the best criminal lawyer in the UK.
It is important that you choose the size firm you are most comfortable with.
Experience and success
Some lawyers have been in the game for a long time, while some have just joined their respective teams. When it comes to your criminal case, you are going to want a lawyer with some years of experience behind them. This more likely means they have extensive knowledge and professionalism engrained in them. Generally, these will be the partners at a law firm. Then there are juniors and associates, lawyers who help the partner in their cases. Ask your lawyer about their experience, cases they have worked on, and how long they have been in criminal law for.
Not only do you want a lawyer with a lot of experience, but you will want one with a long history of success in their cases. In other words, you want a lawyer who is good at what they do.
But how can you know if your lawyer is good? Look out for reviews and references for the lawyer you have in mind, as these can be very helpful. There are many review websites online that can help. Also Google the lawyer just in case – often criminal lawyers land up in the news, whether for good or bad reasons, and it’s important you know!
Communication is key, especially when it comes to lawyers. Lawyers deal with complicated laws and regulations, which can often come off as confusing and wordy. A good lawyer will be able to discuss the law with you clearly while making you feel at ease. When it comes to criminal cases, too, you do not want to be waiting days for a response and update on your matter. Find a lawyer that is good on the phone and email, responds quickly, and is happy to update you when you ask.
Criminal cases are highly personal. Most criminal lawyers understand that it is your liberty and livelihood at stake, even if you are only facing a fine. It is not enough then to find a good lawyer, but a personable one too. A lawyer that can handle the matter delicately and with the requisite discretion is essential to finding the best criminal lawyer for you.
It’s also important that your lawyer listens to you. You might have fears or questions, and the best lawyers are those that help you through the process while managing your case properly. When interviewing lawyers, keep this in mind.
Cost and effectiveness
It’s no secret that lawyers can cost you. This is because the work they do is important, especially when it comes to protecting you from the criminal law and infringement of your rights. That being said, it’s essential that you find a lawyer you can afford.
What you will want to do is make sure the cost structure for your lawyer is laid out and agreed upfront. Lawyers generally charge per the hour, with partners charging the highest rates and juniors somewhat lower. If you are not careful and clear about your expectations, these costs can run away from you without you even knowing. This may be necessary depending on the complexity of your case, which will require more time than most put into it. Then there are additional costs to watch out for, such as printing and traveling costs. Fees are something that should be discussed upfront and cannot always be discounted. Make sure that when you are considering your options, you keep money in mind as criminal cases are not cheap, especially when looking for the best criminal lawyer in the UK.
By now you should be prepared to find the best criminal lawyer for you, whatever your circumstances. Picking a lawyer is a very personal activity, so it is important that you choose the right one, and the one that makes you the most comfortable.
If you need assistance finding the best criminal lawyer for you, contact Stuart Miller Solicitors today. Our friendly and experienced team is ready to assist you – all you need to do is arrange a free consultation to get started.