When you are charged with a criminal offence, your attorney is the most important person. Here are 7 key criteria you must absolutely consider before choosing a lawyer:
- Tenacity A lawyer who talks about money, even before taking your case, is not ready to fight for you. This gives you an immediate insight into his main motivation.
- Strategy A lawyer who promises you a speedy trial may want you to plead guilty, where you may be acquitted at a trial. Ask questions about the strategy your lawyer intends to use.
- Discretion Some lawyers will take advantage of the media to promote themselves. Yet, discretion and a publication ban are essential to ensure confidentiality.
- Mastery You do not want your lawyer to use your case as a career-building practice-run against an experienced opponent. Having a lawyer with more than 30 years of experience makes all the difference.
- Preparation Many attorneys throw their clients to the lions without enough preparation before testifying. Ask a prospective lawyer if he will help you prepare using real-life situations.
- Impact Consider that not all lawyers are skilled at cross-examination and delivering convincing oral arguments. Before choosing your lawyer, attend a trial to watch a prospective lawyer in action.
- Courage A courageous and truly combative attorney has nothing to hide. He answers your questions openly. He invites you to go to court to see him in action without any hesitation.
The best defence is to ask questions before choosing your attorney.
Lea is charged with a crime. At her family's insistence, she calls on her uncle Bernard, an attorney who specializes in family law. It seems like the right decision: "A lawyer is a lawyer! "We need to keep this in the family!" "We'll save a lot of money!"… But all those reasons are meaningless where it really counts: in court. With his lack of knowledge of criminal law, Bernard quickly loses the judge's interest and, ultimately, the case.
Let's be clear! A criminal lawyer is a specialist just like an electrician, surgeon or dentist. Would you ask an electrician to perform open heart surgery when your life depends on it? When you are charged with a criminal offence, your reputation and freedom are at stake. Criminal defence requires a lot of practice, experience and specific knowledge of case law. Effective cross-examination and oral argument skills are also essential. Hiring a lawyer who only occasionally takes on criminal cases is a risky bet. And the risk is high, since you are up against a criminal law specialist: a Crown attorney. Aren't your reputation and freedom too precious to bet on?
The best defence is to choose an attorney who specializes in criminal law.
Jack is at his first court appearance, unaware of the importance of asking for a publication ban. His attorney did not request such a ban. In the months that follow, Jack sees his reputation dragged through the mud by the media, even before he has a fair trial. Regardless of the outcome, in the eyes of his friends, colleagues and neighbours, judgment has already been rendered.
Let's be clear! Yes, your privacy can be protected until your trial. A very good lawyer knows how to erect a barrier and protect your privacy. If your attorney does not protect your privacy, who will? The first step your attorney should take in this regard is to convince the judge to issue a publication ban. Unfortunately, some lawyers fail to do this, for various reasons that are never, ever to your advantage. Without such an order, your case and identity are in the public domain and may be disclosed to T.V. reporters, newspapers, the Internet, etc. Given that it can take up to 6 to 12 months to schedule your first appearance and your trial, the impact on your life can be devastating. Can you imagine being the subject of rumors and gossip and not be able to defend yourself? Can you imagine watching as your reputation is attacked. Now imagine this going on for 365 days…
The best defence is to choose a lawyer that will protect your privacy from day one.
True story: Robert must testify at his trial. With his lawyer, preparation is brief. What is the point of discussing the case any further? After all, Robert knows his story really well. On "D" day, during the testimony, Robert is thrown to the lions. Faced with an endless barrage of questions, he loses track of his story and contradicts himself. From that point forward, the judge stops listening to him… and the walls come crumbling down around him.
Let's be clear! Preparing for your testimony is critical in determining the outcome of a trial. That is why preparation must involve more than mere practice. This has nothing to do with "knowing your story really well". Nor is this the opportunity to show off your acting talents. This is serious! You must be prepared to "do battle" for hours, or even an entire day. We have developed a preparation technique based on real-life situations. We train you to face cross-examination that can be very damaging without the right preparation. We help you face the worst questions, how to conduct yourself in the witness stand, how to withstand provocation, etc. Where many lawyers believe that offence is the best strategy, we believe that a well-prepared defence is just as important. This is a team effort. You and us together. Defence and offence.
The best defence is solid preparation before you testify.
Matthew would rather have a young and dynamic lawyer at his side. Why not? Kind of like those young attorneys we see in movies who win cases in spectacular style! However… when faced with an experienced opponent, everything happens too quickly. The young attorney doesn't have the reflexes, he doesn't know when to object, what to object to, and he is unable to react effectively to attacks from a tough opponent. The movie illusion vanishes into thin air…
Let's be clear! Experience makes all the difference. In legal practice, success is not achieved by magic, but rather through years of dedicated work. Thanks to Matthew, a future client will benefit from the experience his attorney has just acquired. But what about you? Can you afford to have a lawyer using your case—and your reputation—as a practice run? Mastering criminal law requires practice, study and constant refinement of knowledge and skills. Just like an athlete, a criminal lawyer must develop his abilities, reflexes and intelligence. The experience achieved through more than 30 years of criminal law practice enables an attorney to make relevant connections among various cases, gain specific knowledge about case law, assess the risks involved in choosing one strategy over another, predict an opponent's moves, deal with unforeseen events, and become immune to intimidation by anyone or anything… in other words, experience makes all the difference.
The best defence is to choose an attorney with more than 30 years of experience.
David is at his trial. Nothing is going as planned. The opposing party is using a recent court decision to convince the judge. Unaware of this decision, the lawyer appears lost. Faced with the judge's insistence that he either proceed or sit down, his attorney keeps quiet and takes his seat. David's lawyer has no other option but to negotiate a lighter sentence, if possible.
Let's be clear! The answer is no. Although laws don't change much, the legal practice, on the other hand, changes constantly. Court decisions (case law) make it possible for the practice of criminal law to become more precise and refined. Lawyers do not all have the same knowledge, because they do not all have the same will to update their knowledge of case law. Furthermore, they do not all invest in the latest databases that can provide them with access to this information. However, rest assured that the opposing party, the Crown prosecutor, has all of the relevant case law at his fingertips. You can be sure he has access to a state-of-the-art database. And you can also count on the fact that, after making the decision to bring charges against you, he will use every means at his disposal to see you convicted. How about you, will you take full advantage of all of the means available to you?
The best defence is to choose a lawyer with the latest, most up-to-date knowledge.
George never imagined he'd one day be charged with a criminal offence. Never! Yet, one Friday morning, the police turned up at his workplace and arrested him in front of his coworkers. In a state of panic, George chose a lawyer at random from a list given to him at the police station. Although he now regrets his choice and fears the worst, he believes he's stuck with the choice he's made.
Let's be clear! Choosing a lawyer at random makes no sense. However, that's precisely what people do when they are stricken with panic and consumed by worry. And the worst of it is that they feel obligated to stay with this attorney all the way through. If you have already hired a lawyer, but you feel that the choice you made is to your disadvantage, you can change lawyers at any time on reasonable grounds. Don't be like George—get a hold of yourself! Your reputation and freedom are at stake. If you have just been arrested or summoned by the police and charged with a criminal act, you should know that as of that moment, the worst thing that can happen to you is choosing the wrong attorney. Take the time to do the research, ask questions to different lawyers, meet with them, and even go see them in action in court. Don't entrust your fate and savings to someone about whom you know nothing.
The best defence is to change lawyers without any hesitation if you have any doubts.
Audrey is under arrest. The police are convinced they have the person who has committed the crime. Audrey feels that to say nothing would be admitting guilt. Out of fear, she can't help but explain her situation to the police. During the trial, everything Audrey thought she had safely confided to the police is used against her to incriminate her. The lawyer can do nothing to reverse the tides.
Let's be clear! If you are arrested for a criminal offence, don't say anything before you talk to your lawyer. Nothing! You do not have to prove your innocence to the police; it is they who have the burden of proving your guilt. When you are arrested or summoned to the police station, you should be aware that the police have been investigating for several days. In fact, what the police really want is for you to admit your guilt. Do you really think you can make them change their mind? In most cases, the exact opposite is what ends up happening. By giving them your version of the facts, you provide them with information that supports their accusations. Exercise your right to remain silent! Exercise your right to speak to an attorney to be 100% certain that your statement cannot be used against you. Never forget that you are innocent until proven otherwise!
The best defence is to exercise your right to remain silent.
Steve wants a combative attorney to defend him. The lawyer he has chosen is very self-confident, boasts about his combativeness and has an authoritarian demeanour with his staff. Although he's never seen him in action, Steve is convinced he has a hungry wolf on his side. However, when he appears before the judge on the first day of the trial, the wolf turns into a lamb.
Let's be clear! The best way to assess an attorney's ability is to see him in action during a trial. Steve's story is classic! Many lawyers boast of qualities that seem to "magically" disappear once they appear in court. When faced with a judge who acts as a figure of authority, as well as a tough opponent, they lose all their means. In fact, combativeness is more than a simple question of confidence. Combativeness goes hand-in-hand with the courage to go to the wall for you. To have the courage to stand up, despite the blows received. Combativeness means having the intelligence to react quickly with arguments that convince the judge to listen. If your attorney claims to be combative, but doesn't invite you to see this for yourself by watching him in action at a real trial, ask yourself why not. Always remain vigilant; you may be in for an unpleasant surprise in court.
The best defence is to see your attorney in action before making your choice.