Tips on Choosing the Best Criminal Defense Lawyer

The best criminal defense lawyer for your case is the one who will get the best outcome for you. You might not need the most expensive lawyer or the lawyer who gets all of the headlines.

Instead, you need a lawyer who listens to your side of the story and your goals; a lawyer who has the knowledge and the skills to help you develop the strongest criminal defense strategy based on the facts of your case.

Here are some tips for choosing the best criminal defense lawyer for your charges.

Finding a Criminal Defense Lawyer

You should look at as many criminal defense lawyers as you can. You have several sources that can identify candidates for your case, including:


Some of your best candidates will come from referrals. Friends, family members, and co-workers can often point you to a lawyer who represented them in a prior case. If you get arrested, you can even ask for referrals from other inmates or the public defender.

Most people will not recommend a lawyer unless they get a good outcome in their cases. If someone refers you to their lawyer, you know they trust the lawyer’s skills.

Non-referrals can also help you narrow down your candidates. If someone recommends against using a particular lawyer, you should proceed cautiously. Their personal experience might not mean the lawyer is objectively the wrong choice. But you should take their experience into account because you risk having the same problems if you hire their lawyer.

Lawyer Referral Services

A lawyer referral service helps match you up with lawyers who can take your case. The Louisville Bar Association sponsors a lawyer referral service. The Kentucky Lawyer Referral Service interviews potential clients to determine the type of lawyer they need. The service then gives you the contact information for that lawyer.

You must contact the lawyer to set up the consultation. If you do not, the lawyer will not contact you. To join the referral service, lawyers must agree to provide a free 30-minute consultation to clients who receive a referral.

Lawyer Directories

Lawyer directories like Avvo and Martindale-Hubbell provide tools that let you search for a criminal defense lawyer near you. More importantly, these directories include lawyer ratings and client reviews. Based on this information, you can identify lawyers who have a good reputation for legal knowledge and ethics.

Search Engines

Search engines can help you find criminal defense lawyer websites. The websites will provide you with the information you need to decide whether to schedule a consultation.

Some information you might want to review on the lawyer’s website includes:

  • Education
  • Experience as a defense lawyer
  • Experience as a former prosecutor
  • Prior case results
  • The size and investigative resources of the law firm
  • Firm philosophy
  • Client reviews

When you use a search engine to find lawyers, exercise caution when reading reviews. Reviews on Google, Yelp, and other search engines might not give you the full picture of a lawyer’s reputation.

Interviewing Criminal Defense Lawyers

Once you have picked some promising candidates, schedule a few consultations. Most criminal defense lawyers offer a free consultation to new clients.

Use this consultation as an opportunity to interview the lawyer. Some topics you should discuss with the lawyer include:


Discuss how much the lawyer charges for services. Most criminal defense lawyers offer either a flat fee or an hourly fee. Lawyers cannot offer a contingency fee in criminal defense cases.

Lawyers may charge a flat fee for cases with a predictable amount of work. Thus, a lawyer might offer to handle a traffic violation for a flat fee.

Lawyers charge an hourly fee when they cannot predict the amount of work your case will require. The vast majority of cases end in a plea bargain and avoid a trial. But occasionally, you and the prosecution cannot agree on a fair deal, and the case will go before a judge or jury.

A lawyer will usually charge an hourly fee to prepare a case for trial, attempt to negotiate a plea bargain, and then try the case in court if it does not settle. If the case ends quickly, you will pay less than if the case reaches trial.

Also, make sure you discuss trial costs. If your lawyer hires expert witnesses and private investigators, you will need to reimburse the lawyer for those expenses.


Talk to the lawyer about how you will get updates about your case. The lawyer must keep you reasonably informed about your case. The lawyer must also respond to reasonable requests for information. But lawyers can get busy.

Discuss how you will receive updates about your case and who will remind you about court appearances. If you miss court, the judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. Make sure you and the lawyer agree on how you will stay on top of deadlines and court dates.

Possible Outcomes

Discuss the possible outcomes with the lawyer. A good lawyer can have an open, honest, and candid discussion with you about your legal exposure.

If the lawyer believes you will have to serve some time in jail or prison, you should know about this in advance so you can plan for it. If the lawyer believes you can get a fair plea bargain, you should discuss the terms you can accept.

In short, the lawyer should prepare you for both the best and worst potential outcomes. With this information, you can make reasoned decisions about how to conduct your case.

Choosing a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Once you have gathered the information above, you’ll be ready to choose a lawyer. Although you will have deadlines in your case, you should not feel pressured to pick a lawyer quickly.

Experience, knowledge, and skills are essential for a good lawyer. But you also need a lawyer who listens to you. And you need a lawyer whom you understand. You might make some of the most consequential decisions of your life during your criminal case.

You need a lawyer you fully trust. The best criminal defense lawyer for your case could make the difference between a bad outcome and a fair one. Not every criminal defense lawyer has the skills, knowledge, and experience to handle every case.

To discuss your case and the lawyer who can best represent you, contact Suhre & Associates DUI and Criminal Defense Lawyers to schedule a free consultation.