Beware the Warning Signs of a Bad Lawyer— It Just Might Save Your Life

The difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer can mean the difference between freedom, a prison term and yes—even a death sentence. Based on the severity of the situation, I cannot overstate the importance of selecting a seasoned, competent criminal defense attorney from the start. The longer a subpar lawyer works on your case, the less chance you have of achieving a favorable outcome. To save you from any potential problems, here are some warning signs to look out for when hiring counsel.

First Impressions Matter

It all starts with the first meeting. If a lawyer is not willing to sit down with you and comprehensively discuss facts, concerns, evidence, and your background—for free—that should be a red flag. If they do provide a free consultation, take note of their attitude. Are they condescending? Arrogant? If so, walk away. Now. You need a lawyer who sees you as an equal. Jurors will follow their lead.

In-Court Interaction

Speaking of juror perception, juries begin judging you the moment you step into a courtroom. In particular, they are watching the dynamic between you and your counsel.

They watch how your lawyer engages with you. How does your attorney act when new evidence surfaces? How do they behave toward you when a witness takes the stand? Disengagement is a bad sign. If you write a note to your lawyer during the trial, they should read it, look interested, and respond. A good lawyer should demonstrate he/she believes your opinions and beliefs are worthwhile and valid. In contrast, if a lawyer does not acknowledge you, jurors may presume guilt. They may think: Wow! If your lawyer doesn’t even care about what you think, why should we?

 The Personal Touch

 A good lawyer will humanize you in the eyes of the court. Therefore, you need someone who will take the time to get to know you outside the case. They should be familiar with your hobbies, interests, and family background to present the best impression in the courtroom.

The Little and the Big Stuff

A good lawyer must find time for all the above. Their organization skills are pivotal to the success of your case. Constantly ask yourself these types of questions when evaluating their work: Do they miss appointments? Frequently reschedule? Do they validate your parking? (Yes, this matters.) Return your calls? If they’re not prioritizing your case, it’s time to reconsider. Think of it this way: if they can’t keep track of their communications with you, how are they going to reliably communicate with the judge and jury?

Other Warning Signs

Some lawyers make false promises. Shy away from those who 100% guarantee success. There are no guarantees in criminal cases. These kinds of lawyers may be the ones who also charge you for vague items, such as extended phone calls or meetings.

On the other hand, avoid lawyers who seem too affordable. Those who charge low rates must compensate for the lack of income somehow, so they usually bring in more cases, meaning less accessibility for you.

Do Your Homework

Seek references before making your decision. If your prospective lawyer makes excuses, beware. Review the attorney’s website, sift through online reviews, and look for complaints. Remember, everything you hold dear is at stake.

What Matters Most

You need to be the lawyer’s priority. You should have their cell phone number and feel welcome to call 24/7/365. You should always be updated on your case. You should always feel heard and respected. Otherwise, it’s time to find someone who will take your case as seriously as you do.

Chase Geiser