One caution to any consumer/prospective client who is seeking federal court representation, more and more lawyers are now claiming to be federal criminal defense practitioners, or to have federal criminal experience, when in actuality they have little or none. Simply put, they are taking advantage of online truth-in-advertising loopholes and paid-for google rankings to pretend to be something they are not; all at your literal, and figurative, expense. The reality is federal criminal practice and procedure is complicated and nuanced. It is far more regimented and rules-based than in state court and exponentially more "paper-based" and research reliant. Effective oral advocacy is also essential. Moreover, the procedural and evidentiary rules, deadlines and defenses, are different than in state court and effective assistance of counsel requires not only familiarity with the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and Evidence, but also the Local Rules for the District Court and the dizzyingly complex US Sentencing Guidelines. Also, a higher-level of professionalism and experience is not only expected by federal judges who are often the top and most accomplished candidates in the entire judicial applicant field state-wide, but is actually demanded. Put simply, the mistakes and shortcomings of an inexperienced and ill-prepared federal practitioner are almost always suffered by the client and not the offending attorney.
So if you do find yourself in need of a federal criminal defense lawyer , the "buyer need especially beware" and on the lookout for the glut of inexperienced, or state practice-based, lawyers now promoting themselves online as "federal criminal defense lawyers" in order to get their "chops" or "creds" at your experience. The stakes are too high in federal court and the consequences too life-changing for you to unwittingly become their early test case(s). Because GOOGLE and AVVO and other search engines neither vet nor verify their online claims and entreaties, take the time to do so yourself. When you have found a lawyer online who says he or she is a federal criminal defense lawyer, take the time to do your own background research and ask some basic questions. 1. How long have you been practicing in federal court? 2. How many federal trials have you had? (Hint: if the answer is 2 or less, they aren't what they claim to be)3. If they give you and number ask for the actual names of their last three, so you can look them up on PACER (Public Access to Court Electronic Records) and corroborate what they have told you—don't simply trust it. 4. Ask how many cases they have handled in federal court overall, as well of the nature and type of cases handled, and then request of list of at least 10 so you can verify that list via PACER as well. 5. Ascertain their professional experience too. Former federal prosecutors, or federal defenders, are amongst the most experienced federal practitioners out there and while not a requirement—there are enough long-time (I.e. 15+ year's private attorneys in the federal defense bar to assure quality representation) —finding a lawyer in this category is as close to self-validation as you will get. 6. If you know any lawyers who might know folks practicing federal law to ask their colleagues if they have ever heard of the lawyer you are vetting or if he or shown is known to practice in federal court. The federal defense bar is small (or had been until the new pretenders started to push their way in), and most of us in it are known to, and respect, each other. As a result, the feed-back you may get is likely reliable. 7. Look to see if the lawyer you are considering is, or has been, a member of the select CJA federal courts appointments panel. Given that inclusion on this "pro bono" panel for indigent federal clients is based solely on federal court experience, accomplishment(s), and merit, if your "candidate" is, or has been, a full (and not Mentor-program) CJA panelist, you can be sure he or she has the federal experience and qualification your case requires.
This is not said to scare or intimidate or to undercut competition. Rather, it is written in response to the increasingly disturbing trend of particularly, but not always, young lawyers taking advantage of consumer misinformation or misunderstandings of how google and other page-rankings work. ( If you didn't know, rankings have nothing to do with merit. They have everything to do with who is paying for higher page-rankings; who has been doing online advertising longer; whose sites have non-penalized contents; and who has figured out or anticipated the often-changing algorithmic analogues that dictate ones' standing. They also now correlate to whatever SEO corporate cluster the lawyer has paid to promote him or her. ), many of whom have unilaterally decided they can "collect $200 without ever having to pass GO". The problem with federal court practice is it requires a necessary learning curve and years of in court experience. One doesn't become a federal defense lawyer just because he or she declares themselves to be. It's false advertising at its best characterization and borderline fraud at its worst. You are wise, and your future better served, for you to be alert to it.