Choosing a criminal law firm
The last lawyer anyone ever wants to be calling is a criminal defence lawyer. It does not have to be that way. There is a stigma about needing a criminal lawyer that really needs to be undone.
The presumption of innocence means that everyone charged with a criminal offence is innocent. Period. In almost all cases, the clients that come through our doors needing our services are decent people who have found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time, or are facing a life struggle that led to the charge, or they simply made a poor decision for which they need a good advocate to help resolve.
The first instinct of anyone in this position is to search the Internet for the best criminal lawyer or the top criminal lawyer. When you or a loved one finds themselves charged with a criminal offence, you feel you are in trouble. So it is understandable that you would want the top criminal lawyer or the best firm to represent you.
The process of navigating the Internet to find that mythical best criminal lawyer or top criminal law firm can be a minefield. It is not easy choosing who will be the best criminal law firm or the top criminal lawyer that is right for your personal needs and situation.
The Internet does not magically know who is the best criminal lawyer or the top criminal lawyer
Google search will reveal that many law firms self-declare themselves to be the Top Criminal Law Firm in Toronto or the Best Criminal Lawyers in Toronto. The Internet is saturated with claims of lawyers being the best and brightest. An ounce of caution is needed when evaluating these claims. Why? The Internet does not magically know who is the best criminal lawyer or the top criminal lawyer. You need to figure out the answer to that question for yourself.
The Law Society does not allow false or misleading advertising
For a very simple reason, people should be very wary of any self-professed claim on the Internet that a certain lawyer or law firm is the top, greatest or the best. Why? Because the Law Society of Ontario has strict rules governing how lawyers in Ontario are allowed advertise!
The Law Society’s duty is “to protect the public interest, to maintain and advance the cause of justice and the rule of law, to facilitate access to justice for the people of Ontario, and to act in a timely, open and efficient manner.” The Law Society has created these rules to regulate its more than 50,000 licensed lawyers.
Rule 4.1-2 states in part:
In offering legal services, a lawyer shall not use means that
- are false or misleading;
- amount to coercion, duress, or harassment;
Rule 4.2-1 states that:
A lawyer may market legal services only if the marketing
- is demonstrably true, accurate and verifiable;
- is neither misleading, confusing, or deceptive, nor likely to mislead, confuse or deceive; and
- is in the best interests of the public and is consistent with a high standard of professionalism.
The Law Society explains very clearly what these rules mean. Here are some portions of those explanations under Rule 4.2-1:
Examples of marketing that may contravene this rule include
- stating an amount of money that the lawyer has recovered for a client or referring to the lawyer's degree of success in past cases, unless the statement is accompanied by a further statement that past results are not necessarily indicative of future results and that the amount recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases;
- suggesting qualitative superiority to other lawyers;
- raising expectations;
- suggesting or implying the lawyer is aggressive;
- disparaging or demeaning other persons, groups, organizations or institutions;
- using testimonials or endorsements which contain emotional appeals.
Examples of marketing that do contravene this rule include
- marketing services that the lawyer is not currently able to perform to the standard of a competent lawyer;
- bait and switch marketing, that is marketing by which clients are attracted by offers of services, prices or terms different from those commonly provided to clients who respond to the marketing;
- marketing that fails to clearly and prominently disclose a practice that the lawyer has of referring clients for a fee, or other consideration, to other licensees;
- failing to expressly state that the marketed services will be provided by licensed lawyers, by licensed paralegals or both, as the case may be;
- referring to awards, rankings and third party endorsements that are not bona fide or are likely to be misleading, confusing, or deceptive.
If the rules are so crystal clear, there is no reason why the Internet should be crammed with declarations of lawyers and firms claiming to be the best criminal lawyer or top criminal lawyer, or the best criminal law firm of the top criminal law firm.
You alone will decide for yourself when your matter is completed where we rank amongst the competition. We will not tell you we are the best, or the top, or your only choice. That is a braggart’s way of speaking and just like in other areas of life where we have to make choices, everyone naturally views a braggart’s self-professed claims of superiority with skepticism. The same is true with the legal profession.
We will only promise you hard work and commitment to your cause, whatever it may be.
Whether you need a trial, a negotiation, legal advice, or a resolution on favourable terms, we will work hard for you and we will do so with dedicated passion. We cannot make guarantees about results for a very simple reason: we do not make the final decision. What we will guarantee is hard work and knowledgeable, passionate and skilled representation. We have found that this is best formula for success. A lawyer that would guarantee a certain result is not honouring the rules (simply read the rules quoted above). If you are met with such claims, be cautious.
First rule of choosing your lawyer: Talk to the lawyer!
How can you find the criminal law firm that is best suited to represent you?
By all means, use the Internet to search for a lawyer. Use the whatever search terms you feel will work for you. But when you get your results, do your due diligence!
The best way to find the right lawyer, is to contact the firm and interview them. In other words, the first rule of choosing your lawyer is to talk to the lawyer!
Again, just like in other areas of life where we have to make choices, whether it is a home renovation, a car repair, or a medical procedure, choosing a lawyer is no different. Everyone naturally wants to know more. They want to speak to the person they will be trusting to handle their case. So then, here are some suggestions:
- Does the lawyer respond quickly?
- Does the lawyer take your call personally?
- Does the lawyer take the time to listen to your needs?
- Is the lawyer knowledgeable and responsive to your questions and needs?
- Does the lawyer have the expertise to answer your questions?
- Is the firm or lawyer trustworthy?
- Do they make promises that are impossible to guarantee?
- Will the lawyer sit with you for a free initial consultation, to enable you to see who they are and whether there is a good fit?
This is a small list of questions. Once again, just like in other areas of life where we have to make choices, bring your own experiences to the table. The same instincts and skills that guide you through making other life decisions will easily help you decide who will be the best criminal lawyer to handle your case.
At Caramanna, Friedberg LLP we will always offer a free half hour consultation in our office for anyone who is charged with a criminal or quasi-criminal offence. This will allow you to make an informed decision about whether we are the right choice for you. We currently have a large and diverse law firm of nine lawyers and two articling students to serve the needs of our clients. Clients can call 24/7 to speak to a lawyer and we will do our very best to answer right away or call back quickly.
For clients who are not charged with any offence and need immediate or urgent legal advice, we are usually able to offer a same-day appointment for a nominal fee, usually the base rate of one hour of work.