Questions To Ask When Selecting A Lawyer

It is extremely important to make well informed decisions in every aspect of resolving legal issues. Before you can make any decision you need to arm yourself with the facts. This approach begins when you select an attorney to fight for you. The following list gives you a comprehensive guide to navigating your way through the choices. If you ask these questions of lawyers you are considering hiring, the choice will become clear as soon as you hear the answers. To make it easier for you Craig’s answers to these questions are included at the end.

1. How many cases have you tried?

2. How complex were those cases? (Lawyers without much experience like to emphasize their traffic ticket work, which isn't much help if you are charged with a serious crime.)

3. What sort of outcomes did you obtain for your clients?

4. How many times have you been asked to teach lawyers as an expert?

5. Where did you go to law school? (Let's face it, a great legal education is the foundation of great legal skills.)

And, just for fun... (See Craig’s Answers).

6. Have you ever had a jury give you a standing ovation during a trial?

7. Has a jury ever lined up to shake your hand in the court room immediately after rendering a favorable verdict for your client?

8. Has a judge ever referred to you as “a magician” because of your superior trial skills?

9. Do other lawyers regularly consult with you for advice on their cases?

10. Have you ever handled complex international organized crime prosecutions, going after members of the Yakuza and other crime rings?

11. Have you ever authored papers which were presented to national conferences on civil rights?

Craig’s Answers:

1. How many cases have you tried?

Craig’s Answer: I don’t really know. That should give you some idea of how many cases I have tried. I like to say I quit counting when I reached fifty, but that was twenty years ago. Needless to say I have appeared in court thousands of times and have represented thousands of clients on cases ranging from Murder in the First Degree to Shoplifting, and everything in between. (See CRAIG PLATT: A DOZEN REPRESENTIVE CASES)

2. How complex were those cases?

Craig’s Answer: As stated above, I have handled all types of cases, but much of my work has been in the area of major criminal prosecutions. These have included murder, rape and sexual assault, felony assault, burglary, major drug deliveries, embezzlement and other white collar crimes. As a prosecutor I handled complex international organized crime investigations, including everything from a conspiracy to defraud thousands of credit card holders of millions of dollars via a Yakuza syndicate, to the importation of twenty pounds of heroin in the wheel well of an international airline flight. Even as a public defender I was consistently selected to handle complicated matters, such as a commodities scheme involving gold trading and precious metals in Hong Kong. (See CRAIG PLATT: A DOZEN REPRESENTIVE CASES)

3. What sort of outcomes did you obtain for your clients?

Craig’s Answer: I have been very fortunate in my career. As I always say, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” Hard work is my watchword. My clients will all tell you that I fought hard for them. In many, many cases I have been able to take what began as a major criminal prosecution and transform it into a minor offence. This includes both negotiated settlements and successful verdicts following trial. (See CRAIG PLATT: A DOZEN REPRESENTIVE CASES)

4. How many times have you been asked to teach lawyers as an expert?

Craig’s Answer: I have had the great good fortune to teach many classes to both novice and experienced lawyers. In the past few years these classes have included lecturing on behalf of the Washington State Bar Association for their official Continuing Legal Education Program on Jury Selection, teaching a class on behalf of the Washington Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers called “Ask the Experts” about how to cross examine expert witnesses, and chaired a program for the Washington Defender Association on Ethics, where I lectured on the negative impact of high public defender caseloads. (See CRAIG’S CLASSES).

5. Where did you go to law school?

Craig’s Answer: One word: Stanford.

And, now, just for fun...

6. Have you ever had a jury give you a standing ovation during a trial?

Craig’s Answer: Believe it or not, I got standing ovations twice in one case. Month long jury trial on charges of First Degree Murder. First, during jury selection when I broke all the rules and went after a juror who was saying unkind things…the jury erupted with laughter and several jumped to their feet, laughing and applauding. Then, one month later, after acquitting my client of all charges, despite having heard multiple detailed confessions, the jury gathered outside the courthouse after following me outside and proceeded to applaud as I approached. (The court staff had to intervene as they could hear all the commotion from inside the courthouse.) ☺

7. Has a jury ever lined up to shake your hand in the court room immediately after rendering a favorable verdict for your client?

Craig’s Answer: More than once. The most remarkable example was following an acquittal on a major Theft prosecution. My client had been accused of stealing over $25,000.00 worth of merchandise. First, I persuaded the judge to dismiss all but $1,000 after the State rested their case based on a complicated legal argument. Then, after acquitting my client, the jury lined up to all shake my hand and ask me when the next trial would be for fraud, as they bought my argument that this would have been the correct approach. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that there was never going to be such a trial, but instead thanked them for their integrity and hard work.

8. Has a judge ever referred to you as “a magician” because of your superior trial skills?

Craig’s Answer: Yup. It was after one of my many ‘caught in the act’ burglary trial wins. My client had been caught red handed, in the middle of committing a burglary, inside the business, with his pockets bulging with stolen money, burglary tools at his feet, and his blood all over the place and a cut in his hand which was bleeding profusely. Not only did we get a complete acquittal, but managed to have the client’s parole hold from Illinois dismissed after the prosecutor made the mistake of failing to extend the hold. He had figured there was no way he could lose the burglary trial, which would have sent the client away for a very long time. The judge began calling Craig “The Magician” for this miraculous win, which led the local Chief of Police to complain about Craig’s work in the newspaper.

9. Do other lawyers regularly consult with you for advice on their cases?

Craig’s Answer: Constantly. I receive phone calls and emails from attorneys who need advice on the types of cases I handle, or need to know the inside scoop on procedures in the courts where I practice. I consider it an honor to receive these requests and give my advice freely.

10. Have you ever handled complex international organized crime prosecutions, going after members of the Yakuza and other crime rings?

Craig’s Answer: Yes. As Chief of the Criminal Division for the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Saipan, during the 1980’s Craig prosecuted organized crime and high level white collar fraud and embezzlement cases. Some of the more notorious prosecutions he conducted included an international money laundering stolen credit card case where his intervention prevented millions of dollars of planned theft and embezzlement of innocent card holders from occurring, a contract murder planned by Yakuza hit men, and the destruction of an international drug smuggling ring involving dealers from the Philippines who hoped to establish a haven for illicit activity in Saipan.

11. Have you ever authored papers which were presented to national conferences on civil rights?

Craig’s Answer: At Stanford Law School, I co-authored a paper with a professor and a fellow student which was presented as the key note speech to the annual conference of the American Psychiatry Association. The issue we addressed was the right of involuntarily committed patients to refuse neuroleptic treatment, an area which has grown enormously since that time. Ultimately, Craig applied his legal knowledge at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, and Fairfax Hospital in Kirkland, where he represented adults and juveniles caught up in the civil commitment legal system.