Criminal Defense Lawyer FAQ

How can I find a private defense lawyer?

Recently arrested people should usually talk to a lawyer as soon as possible. Often, the most urgent priority is getting a lawyer to arrange a defendant's release and provide some information about what's to come in the days ahead.

If you have been represented by a criminal defense lawyer in the past, that is usually the lawyer to call -- assuming you were satisfied with his or her services. If you have no previous experience with criminal defense lawyers, you can look to the following sources for a referral:

  • Lawyers you know. Most lawyers do civil (noncriminal) work, such as divorces, drafting wills, filing bankruptcies, or representing people hurt in accidents. If you know any attorneys that you trust, ask them to recommend a criminal defense lawyer. (Some lawyers who do civil work can also represent clients in criminal matters, at least for the limited purpose of arranging for release from jail following an arrest.)
  • Family members or friends. Someone close to you may know of a criminal defense lawyer or may have time to look for one.
  • Nolo's Lawyer Directory. Nolo offers a unique Lawyer Directory that provides a comprehensive profile for each attorney with information that will help you select the right attorney. The profiles tell you about the lawyer's experience, education, and fees. Nolo has confirmed that every listed attorney has a valid license and is in good standing with his or her bar association. Every attorney has taken a pledge to communicate regularly with you, provide an estimate of the time and cost involved, and provide you with a clear, fair, written agreement that spells out how they will handle your legal matter and how you will be charged.
  • Referral services. Lawyer referral services are another source of information, but there is a wide variation in the quality of these types of services. Some lawyer referral services carefully screen attorneys and list only those attorneys with particular qualifications and a certain amount of past experience, while other services will list any attorney in good standing with the state bar who maintains liability insurance. Before you choose a lawyer referral service, ask what its qualifications are for including an attorney and how carefully lawyers are screened.
  • Courthouses. You can visit a local courthouse and sit through a few criminal hearings. If a particular lawyer impresses you, ask for her card after the hearing is over, and then call for an appointment.

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