What Characteristics Make a Good Criminal Defense Attorney?
Speaking to Matthew, we learn about what makes a good criminal defense attorney. We expand on whether social media impacts those facing criminal sentences and how an attorney can help when evidence is piled against the accused.
What characteristics make a good criminal defense attorney?
A good criminal defense attorney recognizes this their client’s life is about to change significantly. At a very basic level, they are constantly prepared for court and the battles their client will face moving forward. Issue-spotting is certainly another important characteristic – how are you going to fight the government unless you can find the issues to fight over?
Good criminal defense attorneys are hard to come by. For some reason in this specific area of law, the attorneys just aren’t as dedicated and hardworking as they should be. I’ve been horrified by the lack of preparation of other attorneys.
Finally, a good criminal defense attorney is equally firm and respectful. Being a senseless jerk to the opposition won’t win any favors for your clients. But at the same time, let’s not go too far and be nice to the government unless it’s going to win something for us. Being levelheaded in the face of overwhelming odds will help progress your client’s case.
How can attorneys fight for their client even when evidence may be piled against them?
In criminal defense, frequently there’s a lot of evidence piled against the defendant. While that might sound overwhelming, it isn’t. We must dissect each part of the case and determine where the small and large battles are. Every small battle we win makes the larger objective more easily obtainable.
For example, if the client confessed to the crime, but there’s a lot of other evidence pointing to his or her guilt, that might sound like a tough battle to fight. And it certainly is. But our first step is to figure out whether law enforcement properly obtained that statement. If the confession doesn’t stand, that’s one small issue we no longer need to defend.
Even in the face of a strong government case, prosecutors in Wisconsin generally consider subjective factors in a fair manner. Did the defendant grow up without a father? Was the defendant forced into committing this crime? Or, on the opposite end, was the defendant an upstanding member of society who simply made a series of horrible mistakes? All of these things matter when engaging in plea negotiations with the government.
How does a good criminal attorney ensure ‘innocent until proven guilty’ in the social media age?
Social media is one of the most problematic issues surrounding concepts like “innocent until proven guilty” and “proof beyond a reasonable doubt.” In no uncertain terms, the media is not fair to criminal defendants. The media focuses on the sensational nature of crime. And in doing so, they’re certainly not fair or impartial considering the subject matter they’re dealing with. The scarier the media makes the world, the more people tune in.
Unfortunately, these news articles are posted on social media sites. In a worst-case scenario, one of the articles goes viral and your client is exposed to baseless hatred and ridicule throughout the county, state, and region.
While we can’t stop the news from being there, we can ensure jurors are fair. In Wisconsin, during jury selection, criminal defense attorneys have an opportunity to ask questions of jurors. If those jurors appear unable to move forward impartially, they’re removed from the jury.
How important is the ability to negotiate and investigate as a criminal lawyer?
Negotiation is one of the most important parts of being a criminal defense attorney. While we need to be prepared for jury trial in all cases, not all of them proceed that route. And if we’re not fighting in a jury trial, we still need to obtain the very best result for our clients.
Achieving those results relies on one’s ability to negotiate. But it also relies on the client. Sometimes it’s necessary that I locate various treatment resources and encourage my client to get involved in those resources. For example, if I’m defending a drunk driving case, getting my client into some alcohol treatment will certainly help me to negotiate. If I can approach a prosecutor and point to the treatment my client completed, that will shine a more positive light on him. Certainly, that treatment will help him more than the words of his criminal defense attorney.
Finally, I think that one of the best ways to negotiate is to remain reasonable. If your client committed a homicide, he’s not going to walk out of jail and be placed on probation. That’s just not going to happen. Instead, if I present the prosecution with a reasonable offer based on hard facts and the actual completion of classes, I might save my client a few years of time.
Attorney Matthew R. Meyer
Meyer Van Severen, S.C.
316 N. Milwaukee Street, Ste. 550
Milwaukee, WI 53202
Office: (414) 270-0202
Google Voice: (414) 944-1529
Fax: (414) 255-3017
My journey into law
My name is Matthew Meyer. I graduated from Marquette University Law School in 2012 and immediately began practicing criminal defense at a small Milwaukee, Wisconsin-based law firm. I quickly grew beyond the bounds of that firm and a law firm in 2014. In late 2015, Benjamin Van Severen partnered with me and we formed Meyer Van Severen, S.C. Currently, I handle all criminal and drunk driving cases outside of Milwaukee County, Wisconsin. Additionally, I run all marketing operations at the firm and develop all of our website’s content.
Challenges I faced when starting my own firm
Starting a law firm on my own was certainly a challenge. I constantly worried about my ability to pay my own bills while providing great representation to individuals in tough situations. To facilitate my firm’s growth, I accepted a large number of cases appointed by the public defender’s office. These appointments allowed me to grow my firm and stay dedicated to indigent defendants throughout Wisconsin.
Another important hurdle was advertising. A lot of older attorneys simply don’t understand it. A lot of them don’t believe in it, and instead, think that one should rely on word of mouth. While I understand the sentiments of where they’re coming from, I think that advertising allows smart lawyers a better opportunity to help individuals in need.