Have you been accused of a crime? You’ll need a good criminal defense attorney to help you navigate the tricky waters of the legal system. Here are just seven tips for finding a lawyer you can trust.

choosing criminal defense attorney

Look for a Specialist
Not all criminal defense attorneys have the same areas of expertise. For example, some may specialize in bank fraud while others excel in getting DUI charges thrown out of court. Some may only handle civil affairs while others deal exclusively with federal cases. No matter what kind of trouble you’re in, make sure you find a lawyer with the right skill set to handle it.

Check Their Credentials
How long have they been practicing law? Where did they get their degree, and when did they graduate? You never want to be a firm’s first case, but on the flip side, you probably don’t want an attorney 70 years removed from law school either. Find someone experienced but also contemporary. They’ll have their finger on the pulse of the law.

Ask About Policies and Procedures
Every lawyer has their own way of approaching a case, and some may be more beneficial to you than others. For example, if you’re genuinely guilty of a crime and hoping to escape jail time, you’ll want a lawyer who knows how to negotiate deals with the prosecution. If you’re innocent, on the other hand, you’ll want someone who will fight tooth and nail to get you off cleanly.

Discuss Money Matters
Some lawyers charge by the hour regardless of outcome. Others might only ask for payment if they win your case. Other still might be willing to work out alternative fee arrangements (AFAs) if you’re on a budget. You never know where your lawyer will stand on billing issues until you discuss them directly, so get that conversation out of the way early.

Confirm Their Win-Loss Ratio
How many cases have they won? How many cases have they gotten dismissed? When they’ve lost, how badly did they lose? Very few lawyers have a 100 percent success rate, but if their failures include heavy fines or decades of incarceration for their clients, they aren’t a lawyer you should trust with your case.

Check Their References
Previous clients are often the best place to find out how lawyers really behave. Even if they look great on a billboard, they might be rude, unpunctual or uncaring in person. They might never return phone calls, or they might treat their clients dismissively. These are all things you’ll want to know in advance before hiring their services.

Schedule a Consultation
At the end of the day, you’re the only one who can decide whether or not you trust a lawyer, and you can’t make that assessment without meeting them face-to-face. Book an appointment and sit down together for a long talk. Go over the details of your case; ask questions about their practice; discuss potential outcomes. Talk as much as necessary until you feel comfortable putting your future in their hands.

These are just a few things to keep in mind as you search for a criminal defense attorney.