I am a criminal defense attorney in Los Angeles. If you’re reading this, you are probably looking to hire a criminal defense lawyer for you or your loved one. You’re likely trying to navigate dozens of websites, reviews, testimonials, articles, and pages of opinions from an endless stream of defense lawyers claiming they can help you or your loved one. But what’s real and what’s not? What should you look for? Here’s a guide.
Should I Believe Internet Reviews for Criminal Defense Lawyers?
Like almost everything in the law, the answer is “it depends.” First and foremost, the top priority for criminal defense attorneys is maintaining client confidentiality. Part of the commitment to confidentiality is not putting clients in a position in which they are required to publicly discuss their criminal case, even after it’s over. And if it’s an open case, no criminal defendant case should ever discuss their situation with anyone other than their lawyer. And they certainly shouldn’t be posting things on the internet.
After the case is over it’s a different story. Some people are inclined to leave reviews of their lawyers without the lawyer asking. Other times the lawyer may ask the client to leave a review. Either is OK, but you need to really read carefully to determine the value of the review.
First, you have to decide whether or not the review is a real review from a real client. Many attorneys have marketing consultants write reviews for them. I know. It’s ridiculous. Attorneys are supposed to be honest and not engage in this kind of behavior, but there are plenty of marketing companies who will do this.
I’m always suspicious of a criminal defense attorney with loads of Yelp or Google Reviews. Why? Because both Yelp and Google require their users to register accounts under their supposedly real names. There are marketing companies who generate fake Google and Yelp profiles with which to write these reviews. There are also lawyers who will offer a discounted rate to clients who agree to write favorable reviews. All of these practices are highly unethical, but it does not stop lawyers from doing it.
I have no Yelp reviews nor do I have Google reviews. Why? Because I would never ask a client to use his or her real name to publicly discuss something as private as a criminal matter. Sometimes clients are willing to leave feedback. I send them to Avvo.com because the reviews can be left anonymously. Of course, the anonymous review system also lends itself to fake reviews. And that brings me to my next point …
Do Not Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer Based on Internet Reviews
Hiring a criminal defense attorney is a deeply personal decision. You are likely scared and in a very vulnerable position. Take a breath and give yourself a minute before handing over your money to anyone. Is there attorney giving you the hard sell? Telling you that you need to sign up immediately? Is the attorney telling you that he or she is the only one who can help you? Telling you that he or she will intervene early with the police and prosecution to prevent charges from being filed? Telling you that he or she knows the judge or the prosecutor?
Or is the lawyer calmly listening to your story and giving you a level-headed analysis of your situation? Is the attorney yelling you to give it some thought before making any decisions.
In other words, is the attorney really listening to you or just giving you a sales pitch?