Selecting A Good Criminal Lawyer in Canada
If you have been charged with a crime in Canada, you want to retain a criminal lawyer immediately. You will want someone who has expertise in criminal law because it is a highly specialized area of the law.
If you can't afford to hire a Canadian lawyer in a criminal law matter, you can apply for a legal aid lawyer. However, if you are looking to hire a Canadian criminal law lawyer in private practice, one of the best places to start your search is here at Canadian-Lawyers.ca. You can do a free search to come up with a list of Canadian criminal lawyers by using the Find A Lawyer search box on the right hand side of this screen that can be accessed anywhere on Canadian-Lawyers.ca. If you do a search for a Canadian criminal lawyer but don't pull up any names, expand your search to other nearby cities. Also, follow the search tips provided in response to your unsuccessful search, or click on Search Help.
Once you are able to pull up a list of Canadian criminal lawyers, look at each lawyer's profile by clicking on his or her name, or by clicking on the link to "More info . . ." that appears next to each listing. If the criminal lawyer has a website, check it out by clicking on the link provided in the profile. Next, use the following guidelines to do some initial screening and narrow your list of criminal lawyers in Canada down to three or four prospective candidates:
Look at biographical information, including whatever you can find on websites for the criminal lawyers and their law firms.
Do they appear to have expertise in the area of criminal law that you need?
Do they have any information on their websites that is helpful to you?
Do they belong to any reputable associations in the area of expertise that you need?
Perform internet searches for the name of each criminal lawyer and his or her law firm. Can you find any articles, FAQ's or other informational pieces that the Canadian criminal lawyer has done that give you a level of comfort?
Ask other people if they have heard of the criminal lawyers and what they think about them.
Contact your provincial law society or visit their website to find out if the criminal lawyers are in good standing.
Check out the online archives of your local newspaper. Has there been any publicity about the Canadian criminal lawyers or the cases that they have handled?
Consider any special needs you have. For example, would you benefit from a criminal lawyer who speaks a language other than English?
Don't eliminate a Canadian lawyer just because he or she didn't have the time to meet with you on short notice. Good criminal lawyers are busy so they may not be able to spend as much time as they would like with prospective clients.
Consider the criminal lawyer's staff. Good Canadian criminal lawyers have good people working with them and they may delegate a lot of responsibility to their staff. At a minimum, you should expect to be treated courteously and professionally by the staff in a criminal lawyer's office.
Criminal law lawyers in Canada will almost always charge by the hour, or by a flat fee that is payable up front. Rules of professional conduct for your province quite likely prohibit a criminal lawyer from entering into a contingency fee agreement for a criminal action. Rates can be competitive so it may be to your benefit to shop around. However, Canadian criminal lawyers with a good reputation in this area are going to charge more. With your freedom possibly on the line, it may be worthwhile to pay more for a criminal lawyer or a law firm with a great reputation.
You will probably want to hire a criminal lawyer with at least a few years of experience, and especially one with experience in the type of prosecution you are facing, like traffic offenses, drug crimes, sex offenses or white collar crimes. Criminal cases in Canada are often resolved by plea agreements with the Crown attorney's office. This may require that the criminal lawyer have a good working relationship with the Crown attorney, or to have a reputation that commands respect. Thus, you will want a criminal lawyer who appears frequently in the jurisdiction your case is in.
Unless there are special circumstances, you will want to hire a Canadian criminal lawyer with a local office. Since many criminal matters might arise in a jurisdiction where you don't actually live, you may need to hire a lawyer local to the criminal prosecution, rather than local to your home.
Before You Hire A Lawyer in Canada
Ask for references. You want to talk to people who could comment on the criminal lawyer's skills and trustworthiness.
Ask for a copy of the Canadian law firms' brochure and promotional materials. If they are available, crosscheck these materials against other sources and references.
Ask to be provided with a copy of the criminal lawyer's retainer agreement and have it explained to you before decide on retaining the Canadian lawyer or the lawyer's law firm. You may end up paying a lot of money to the criminal lawyer so make sure you understand what you are signing up for.
Use your common sense to evaluate the remaining criminal lawyers on your list. You'll want to be comfortable with the Canadian lawyer you hire. You will also want to choose the Canadian criminal lawyer who you think will do the best job for you.