Researching Your Attorney – Why Credentials Matter

Deciding which attorney to hire is perhaps the biggest decision people face when defending themselves against criminal prosecution.  Hiring the right attorney may seem like a daunting task given the number of attorneys out there.  Many lawyers claim to be criminal defense attorneys, but also claim to practice family law, personal injury, estates and trusts, and virtually every other kind of law there is.  This is a red herring for, “I am not an expert in any one area, so I’ll try to do a little bit of everything”.  Other attorneys claim to do only criminal defense, but in all candor, don’t have a clue what they are doing and offer a cheap price tag to offset their deficiencies.  Hiring an attorney obviously falls into the “buyer beware” category, but there are things you can do to ensure that you’re hiring a criminal defense attorney who is competent, experienced, and will give you the strong defense for which you’re entitled.

RESEARCH YOUR ATTORNEY.  We can’t say it enough.  Just because someone is listed online claiming to be a criminal defense attorney by no means ensures that they know what they are doing in the courtroom.  Even more concerning are the lawyers who send you solicitation letters in the mail.  Someone who simply claims to do criminal defense is not the same as someone who does criminal defense well.  The key is to research the attorney before hiring and to look for certain credentials to ensure successful, competent representation.

CREDENTIALS TO LOOK FOR: There are many groups and so-called “awards” that attorneys can join or win by simply paying money.  Realistically, those are not awards at all.  Awards that are most credible are those that are peer nominated (ie. attorneys nominating attorneys for awards), followed by independent third party research, and then voted on by credentialed panels.  Awards that fall into this category include Superlawyers, Missouri Lawyers Weekly, Martindale-Hubbell, and Top 100 Trial Lawyers.

Additionally, certification and expertise in a specific area of law is a huge plus.  Although the Missouri Bar does not recognize outside certification organizations, and offer no specialty certification of its own, the National Board of Trial Advocacy offers certification in specialized areas of practice that are recognized by the American Bar Association.  For example, Criminal Trial Practice is a specialty area of certification that the NBTA offers and is recognized by the American Bar Association.  In order to be certified by NBTA to ensure specialized knowledge and experience in Criminal Trial Practice, an attorney must go through a rigorous application process, demonstrate adequate experience across dozens of key practice areas, and finally complete a bar style exam solely in criminal law.  It is a scary thought, but many people who practice criminal defense in Missouri likely could not pass this exam.  That is why certification by your attorney is something to look for to ensure competency and specialized knowledge to protect you against government prosecution.

IS THE ATTORNEY DEDICATED TO CRIMINAL DEFENSE?  Finally, one key in hiring a good criminal defense lawyer is to look for whether the attorney you hire is dedicated to his or her profession of criminal defense and to his or her clients.  Many defense attorneys tout the fact that they used to be prosecutors.  I’m not so sure this is a positive.  You want an attorney who is going to be loyal to you without the concern of them playing both sides.  Additionally, you want to see your attorney have specialized education in criminal defense and specific involvement in criminal defense only groups, such as the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.  These organizations provide criminal defense specific training throughout the country to better equip defense lawyers for the rigors of providing the best representation possible for their clients.

Attorney Adam Woody has the among the most combined experience, credentials, and courtroom success of any criminal defense attorney in Southwest, Missouri.  He has never practiced any area of law other than criminal defense, and has been perfecting his craft for over a decade.  He is a graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, as well as the National Criminal Defense College in Macon, Georgia.  He is a general member of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, and the treasurer of the Missouri Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, an organization for which he is on track to be president of in two years.  He has been named to the Superlawyers Rising Stars list in 2016, he has won the Missouri Lawyers Weekly Up and Coming Attorney award in 2011, and he has been named a Top 100 Trial Lawyer in the country in 2013 through 2016.  He is board certified in the area of Criminal Trial Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, and is the only attorney in Southwest, Missouri to achieve such specialty certification.  He has achieved an AV rating by the lawyer rating resource, Martindale-Hubbell, which indicates a Preeminent rating, the highest rating available, based on peer and client reviews and independent panelist research.  He is a member of the invitation only group, National College for DUI Defense, and he has received the same certification in standardized field sobriety testing as police officers receive in their academy.  Adam has achieved hundreds of dismissals for clients accused of crimes, as well as dozens of not guilty verdicts, including for the most egregious of charges such as first degree murder.  He is a criminal defense attorney who is dedicated to that profession alone, and he is ready to step into the courtroom and provide you the best defense available in the region.

When researching an attorney to determine whether you will get the most experienced, most competent, and most prepared defense available, look no further than attorney Adam Woody.  He’s ready to fight the battle with you as your advocate in the courtroom.