25 Sep 23

How important is a lawyer’s trial record in New York criminal cases?

| by

Last Updated on: 26th September 2023, 03:46 am

How Important is a Lawyer’s Trial Record in New York Criminal Cases?

If you’ve been charged with a crime in New York, one of the most important decisions you’ll make is choosing the right criminal defense attorney. An experienced lawyer can analyze the charges against you, advise you of your rights and options, negotiate with prosecutors, and defend you in court. When researching potential attorneys, one key factor to consider is their trial record – how much courtroom and jury trial experience do they have? In New York, an attorney’s trial skills and win-loss record can make a major difference in the outcome of your criminal case.

Why Trial Experience Matters

Less than 10% of criminal cases actually go to trial, with most resulting in plea bargains or dismissals pre-trial. But if your case does end up before a judge or jury, you want an attorney who knows their way around the courtroom. Lawyers build trial experience over years of taking cases to verdict. Those with more experience:

  • Are skilled negotiators – Prosecutors may offer better plea deals to avoid facing a battle-tested lawyer in court.
  • Know how to craft a trial strategy – An experienced litigator will build the strongest defense from the facts of your case.
  • Can anticipate the prosecution’s moves – They’ve seen the strategies prosecutors rely on and can prepare to counter them.
  • Are comfortable speaking in court – They can deliver clear, persuasive opening and closing arguments.
  • Understand judges and juries – They know how to tailor arguments and present evidence effectively.
  • Recognize objections – They can make timely objections to inadmissible evidence.
  • Conduct examinations – They have experience directly examining and cross-examining witnesses.

While every case has unique facts, an attorney who has taken past cases to verdict has invaluable knowledge to draw from. Their familiarity with judges, prosecutors, and the courtroom itself helps them advocate for you skillfully.

Checking an Attorney’s Trial Record

So when researching defense lawyers, look for those with an established history of bringing cases to trial. There are a few ways to get insight into an attorney’s courtroom experience:

  • Ask the lawyer directly about their trial record, including win-loss statistics.
  • Search online databases of New York case records, looking for cases they litigated.
  • Look for lawyer profiles on legal sites like Avvo that may include trial information.
  • Search news stories mentioning cases the attorney took to trial.
  • Check client and peer reviews discussing their trial skills.
  • Call your local bar association to ask about the lawyer’s reputation.

While a long career doesn’t always mean extensive trial experience, attorneys who have been practicing criminal law for many years tend to have more courtroom savvy. If a lawyer claims significant trial experience, verify details by looking up their case records and client reviews.

Weighing a Lawyer’s Win-Loss Ratio

Look beyond just the number of trials an attorney has handled to their win-loss record. The very best lawyers succeed in winning a high percentage of trials. However, even excellent attorneys can’t win every trial – no lawyer has a perfect record. Factors outside their control like the facts of the case, strength of the evidence, and sympathies of the judge or jury affect the outcome. The justice system isn’t baseball – even the best “batters” don’t hit a home run every time they’re up at bat. While you want an attorney with more wins than losses, don’t expect a trial record of 100% wins – a win rate over 50% is solid.

Trial Skills Aren’t Everything

Although an attorney’s trial record is important, it shouldn’t be the only factor in your decision. Consider skills like:

  • Investigation – Can they dig up evidence proving your innocence?
  • Negotiation – Can they secure a favorable plea bargain if needed?
  • Knowledge – Do they understand the complexities of your charges?
  • Communication – Are they responsive and keep you informed?
  • Resources – Do they have the manpower and finances to mount a strong defense?

The ideal attorney has courtroom litigation skills as well as meticulous preparation, knowledge of the law, and devotion to their clients. Weigh all of these factors as you choose who to entrust with your defense.

How Trial Records Differ by Case Type

The importance of an attorney’s trial record can vary depending on your specific charges:


For less serious misdemeanor charges like petty theft, drunk driving, or simple assault, prior trial experience may matter less. Many misdemeanor cases end in plea bargains, with only a small percentage going to trial. If your case does go to trial, the stakes are lower than a felony trial. An attorney skilled at negotiation may be able to get charges reduced or dismissed without needing extensive trial experience.

Low-Level Felonies

For minor felony charges like drug possession or low-level theft, trial experience helps but other factors like knowledge of diversion programs may be equally important. An attorney who specializes in getting felonies reduced to misdemeanors through drug treatment or restitution programs may be able to avoid trial altogether.

Serious or Complex Felonies

If you face high-stakes charges like murder, rape, robbery, or complex fraud, a lawyer’s trial record is critical. For class A or B felonies with long prison terms, you need an attorney who knows how to argue high-profile cases in front of juries. Likewise for complex charges involving forensic evidence or financial records, you need a lawyer experienced in presenting complicated material. Invest heavily in trial experience for serious, complex cases.

Past Record

If you have a prior criminal record, choosing a lawyer with trial success is key. Prosecutors often pursue enhanced charges and penalties against those with a record. An attorney experienced getting charges dismissed, reduced, or won at trial despite prior convictions could mean the difference between jail or avoiding conviction.

Finding the Right Attorney for Your Case

To recap, when selecting a criminal defense lawyer in New York:

  • Prioritize attorneys with extensive trial experience and courtroom litigation skills.
  • Verify their total number of trials and win-loss ratio.
  • Look for trial experience specific to your charges – misdemeanors, low-level felonies, or serious felonies.
  • If you have a record, trial experience is especially crucial.
  • Factor in their negotiation skills, resources, and knowledge too.

The ideal lawyer has the perfect blend of trial record, skills, and commitment to defending clients like you. Be thorough in researching multiple attorneys’ credentials before choosing who to trust with your freedom. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your corner, you can feel confident knowing your case is in the hands of a proven courtroom litigator.