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11 Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney

There are several things you should ask when it comes to hiring a criminal defense attorney. Our guide right here has you covered.

Often you are trying to hire a lawyer during some of the most stressful and scary times of your life. While it shouldn’t be difficult to find a criminal defense attorney, the process can be daunting.

If you’ve ever googled “criminal defense attorney near me,” you have probably realized that not all lawyers are created equal. However, realizing this and being able to pick the best one for your case is very different.

To find the right lawyer, the right questions must be asked of them.

Below you will find a list of eleven questions you should ask every lawyer you speak with. You’ll only hire one, so to make sure your lawyer is the right match, ask these questions.

1. How Long Have You Been Practicing Law?

This may seem like an obvious question. But, it should not go unasked.

Not only does this give you the perfect starting place to begin asking questions, but it provides essential information.

Your criminal defense lawyer should be able to answer this simple question to put you at ease.

When answering this question, hopefully, the attorney will go into some detail about their experience.

By asking this question you can find out:

  • Where they went to college and law school?
  • In what states do they have a license to practice?
  • Have they always practiced criminal law?
  • What did they do before they were a defense attorney?
  • Were they ever a prosecutor?
  • Have they tried cases similar to your own?
  • How long have they been with this practice and what is their seniority level within the practice?

Getting to know your lawyer should not be difficult. It is important to have a close working relationship with them as, if hired, they will be handling all the details of your case.

2. Who Else Will Be Handling My Case?

When hiring an attorney, you are agreeing to work with more than just one person.

A criminal defense attorney will typically work works within an entire law practice.

By asking this question, you can get to the bottom of who exactly will be handling the sensitive information regarding your case.

Their answer to this question should provide more information for the following, as well:

  • How big is their team?
  • Will you be contacted by anyone else?
  • Will anyone else have access to my confidential information?
  • Do they do their own writing and paperwork, or is that handled by someone else?

3. Do You or Your Practice Have a Specific Focus Within Criminal Law?

It may not seem like it, but criminal law is a wide category. Most attorneys need to specialize within the broader category.

A key factor in hiring an attorney is making sure that your needs match up with their expertise.

No matter how unique your case is, your attorney will need to find a defense based on the law.

Having a lawyer with a focus can only help your defense, and eventually, your outcome.

Specialties may range from minor drug offenses to felony assault. Regardless of your charges, you need a lawyer with expertise.

A lawyer’s focus will shed light on their abilities as an attorney and their experience in cases like your own.

4. How Much Will This Cost and How Do Payments Work?

Of all the questions to ask a lawyer, this is perhaps the most important.

Before you hire an attorney, and before they start any work on your case, you need to know how their payment process works.

To feel confident and trust your lawyer, you need to have a black-and-white approach to cost and payment.

You will need to know if the practice has payment plans, what forms of payment they take, and when you are expected to make each payment.

Perhaps the attorney requires a retainer or deposit before trial. Perhaps you pay in full after the trial is over. Regardless of how their payments work, you need to be prepared before hiring.

If you have any outstanding questions about how much you will owe, or by when you need to pay them, it will be very difficult to work with them on your case.

Be sure to ask any and all of your questions regarding payment upfront and make sure you are confident in the attorney’s answers.

5. What Will My Role Be During the Trial?

Your role in the trial should not be shrouded in mystery. You have a right to assist in your own defense.

Don’t be ashamed if you are unsure what you need to do for your trial. The right defense attorney will be able to walk you through your role.

They’ll answer your questions like:

  • Will you be assisting the defense in a material way?
  • Will you need to testify?
  • What paperwork will you need to gather?

By the end of your first few conversations with an attorney, you should begin to feel confident about your role in your own defense.

6. As My Criminal Defense Attorney, How Often Will We Communicate?

Clear lines of communication are important in any relationship–professional or personal.

It is especially key in lawyer-client relationships. Your criminal defense lawyer serves as your voice in the legal process, they share in your secrets and guard your well-being.

You should know, before hiring an attorney, how often you will hear from them and when you can reach out.

7. Who Do You Go to for Advice?

This may seem like a personal question. But, knowing about your defense lawyer’s process will help you feel confident in your choice.

You will be entrusting your outcome with them, who do they trust?

Perhaps it will be a colleague or mentor, maybe even a faith advisor.

Whoever it is, their answer will give you a more well-rounded picture of your attorney’s process.

8. How Long Will This Process Take?

Few questions are more important than this.

Having a clear idea of what the trial process looks like, how many steps and how long each one takes, is key.

Your attorney should be very clear about the process. They will be able to shed light on exactly what the process may look like.

9. How Often Have You Handled Cases Similar to Mine?

This speaks to your potential lawyer’s experience and expertise.

When hiring a lawyer, you should be confident that they will be prepared. By finding out if they have previously tried cases like yours, you will gain significant insight into their results and their ability to try your case.

Your attorney may even allow you to speak with former clients with cases like yours. If you want advice or real-world feedback on your potential attorney, speaking to someone who has been through the process is a great opportunity.

10. Can You Tell Me What the Outcome Will Be?

The answer to this question should be a resounding, “No.”

While it isn’t exactly a trick question, this is a good gauge of how trustworthy your potential attorney is.

It doesn’t matter how good they are. No criminal defense attorney can tell you, with certainty, what the outcome of your trial will be.

Instead, they should be able to prepare you, realistically, for your chances.

Based on their previous experiences with similar cases, in front of certain judges, they may be able to give you a good idea of what to expect. But, there are many mitigating circumstances at trial.

A lawyer who speaks of results in absolutes should be avoided.

11. What Additional Information Will You Need From Me, Going Forward?

Lastly, you should always leave your attorney’s office prepared.

Whether you’re prepping for trial or still in the early planning stages, you should always double-check what the next steps will be.

A great criminal defense attorney is always thinking ahead. They will have something you can do to help the process move along.

Choosing an Attorney

Finding a criminal defense attorney is not an easy or short process. That said, choosing an attorney is only the first step in a long trial process.

You should be confident with your choice of a lawyer throughout the entire process.

These questions will help.

If you ask all your prospective attorneys these questions, you can rest assured of your choice. You will end up with a lawyer you can feel confident in.

More importantly, if your attorney answers these questions well, that confidence will translate into the courtroom.

Now it is time to begin contacting attorneys.

Don’t hesitate. You are well prepared, so should your attorney be.

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