handcuffs on desk with a gavel

What to Look For When Hiring a Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you are in the unfortunate dilemma of needing to hire a criminal defense lawyer, it is important to know what to look for. Not all criminal defense lawyers are created equal and you want to hire the best possible lawyer for your case. As you begin your attorney search, consider the following important factors:

LEGAL EXPERTISE & EXPERIENCE: The attorney should have a thorough understanding of criminal law and the criminal justice system, as well as experience in handling cases like your case. You should generally inquire about the attorney’s track record and results he or she has gotten in some of these cases. The attorney’s experience level is important. An attorney handling a complex fraud case with only five years’ experience is different than an attorney with 20 years’ experience.

ADVOCACY SKILLS: The attorney should be an effective advocate for their clients, with the ability to present a strong and convincing argument in court.

STRONG COMMUNICATION SKILLS: The attorney should be able to communicate effectively with the client, witnesses, and other parties involved in the case.

TRIAL PREPARATION: Find out if the attorney you are interviewing has trial experience. Most prosecutors respond more favorably to criminal defense attorneys who are willing to and able to go to trial.

REPUTATION: The attorney should have a good reputation and be well respected in the legal community. The client should check to see if the attorney has any discipline problems with the State Bar. You should also look for real (not fake) reviews on Google and other legitimate sources.

PROFESSIONALISM: The attorney should be able to stay calm under pressure and maintain a professional demeanor.

AVAILABILITY: The attorney should be accessible and responsive to the client’s needs. You want an attorney who is responsive to your questions and concerns. An attorney that does not return calls and does not meet with their client may be too busy and consequently not the right attorney.

SPECIALTY: Some lawyers specialize in certain types of criminal cases. That is important. If your case involves a sexual assault case and the attorney specializes in DUI cases, then that is not the best attorney for you. You would need an attorney who had sufficient knowledge and experience in sexual assault cases. Additionally, there are advantages to hiring a lawyer who practices exclusively in criminal defense. Such a lawyer is likely to have a deeper understanding of criminal law and procedure, as well as the local court system, judges, and prosecutors. This expertise can result in better outcomes for the client, including plea bargaining and trial strategies. Moreover, an attorney, who exclusively practices criminal defense, may have established relationships with key players in the criminal justice system, which can be useful in negotiating favorable settlements or pleas bargains.

TRUSTWORTHINESS: The attorney should be trustworthy, honest and act in the best interest of their client.

RESULTS: The attorney should have a record of achieving positive results for their clients. Beware of any attorney who overpromises or guarantees unrealistic results for your case. An attorney is not ethically permitted to make promises or guarantees about the outcome of a case. The attorney can offer an opinion, based of his / her knowledge and experience, as to how the judge or jury will decide.

FEES: The attorney should be transparent about their fees and costs associated with the case. Find out from the attorney what you are paying for. For example, if your case is a felony, do the fees you pay the attorney cover the entire case (including trial) or just a portion of the case—like up through the preliminary hearing. Ask if there are any additional fees the client would have to pay for, such as a private investigator or a psychological evaluation. Inquire about a payment plan as well. Most fees in criminal cases consist of a flat fee and not an hourly rate. Make sure the fee you are quoted by the attorney is consistent with the attorney’s experience. For example, an attorney representing you on a serious case like attempted murder or murder with three years’ experience should not be charging $50,000 to $100,000. The fee should be consistent with the criminal charges and the attorney’s level of experience.


Being charged with a crime is life changing. The attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners understand how serious charges are. We have decades of experience. Call us for a free confidential consultation and learn what we can do for you. We will hear your story, answer your questions, review the law with you and provide you with legal options. Call 213-481-6811 for a confidential in-person consultation.

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