Which attorney?

Start somewhere

A bad attorney is better than none. If you suddenly need an attorney and you do not know an attorney, your best first bet is to use the Public Defender. The PD is free for indigent clients. If you have no funds available for an attorney, (in the US) an attorney will be provided at taxpayer expense.

If you are charged with a crime you have the right to represent yourself in court, but most people, even attorneys, have a legal representative to speak for them. If you think you are a good public speaker and you think you can win a case in court, you probably are not such a good speaker and you probably will lose. The ideal attorney is one who is dynamic but who listens to his client. The attorney should be firm but likeable.

The attorney and client should be a team which works toward the goal of winning the case.

It is difficult sometimes to keep up with what goes on in a courtroom. There might be Latin words thrown about and statutes will be referenced. The judge might say, "Approach the bench" and the opposing attorneys will have a whispered conversation with the judge. None of that goes on the record.

A good attorney can often cause a witness to contradict himself or herself. The best attorneys can be found by references from previous clients.

There are good Public Defenders, but in most major cities a Public Defender is swamped with many cases. He might appear in court with a half dozen cases each day. Still, it is probably best to have a Public Defender representing you for the first court appearance and if nothing else, ask the PD to recommend a good attorney for your case.

Types of Attorneys

Basically attorneys are either Criminal or Civil. The Civil attorney can represent you in a courtroom for the first appearance or he or she could probably answer some basic questions you might have. If you are charged with a felony you definitely need a Criminal lawyer right away. In court you can always ask for a continuance until an attorney can be provided for you who is an experienced Criminal lawyer. When asking for a continuance, do not give up your right to a speedy trial. Do not give up any of your rights.

There are good and bad attorneys. You want an attorney who does not make a bad impression on the judge or jury. Whatever you tell the attorney is privileged, supposedly. You can tell the attorney anything and it is supposed to remain confidential. It is possible the attorney will drop you as a client if you tell him you committed a crime but you want to plead not guilty. Most attorneys will plead their client Not Guilty but use statutes and other case references to explain their client's innocence. An attorney is supposed to be an Officer of the Court and is supposed to be seeking justice for his wrongly accused client.

If you talk with an attorney, do not leave out any piece of information which the District Attorney is likely to already know about, even if the DA has not mentioned it yet. A really good attorney will tell you what not to tell him (anywhere on this site if I use a pronoun it can be him or her).

Online Attorneys

You will quickly find an attorney in your area, if you live in a major city, by searching online. Enter your city and the word "attorney." Be sure to narrow your search down to your area of town and your offense being tried. If you know some family members or friends who have had experience with the legal system, ask their advice.




Most attorneys you hire will ask for a "retainer." That means a payment which is really a down payment for their service. A final fee will be announced after the lawyer has heard about the case and done some investigation. The fees are very widely ranging. Some attorneys will ask only for $500 for a case and others will not hesitate to ask for what might be a year's pay for most people just to handle the case.


An attorney might hire a Private Investigator to assist him with the case. That might be included in his fee or it might be additional. A private detective might be able to find out some information which will win the case for you.


Stay in contact with your attorney at least once every 24 hours. It is possible a sudden hearing is scheduled for your case. The Court contacts the attorney but not the individual client. Keep your attorney's card handy.Do not leave town without clearing it with your attorney.

Visit the office of your attorney when you are advised to do so. Some things are better handled in person and not on the phone.

Stay Low

During your court proceedings it is best to stay below the radar. If you are on Twitter or some internet chatroom be careful not to say anything about your case. Do not contact victims or courtroom personnel or jurors, etc, even if you think you have cleverly concealed your identity. Let your attorney do what needs to be done.

Separate Attorneys

It is usually best in a criminal case to have an attorney of your own who does not represent other defendants in your particular case. If the James Boys were arrested for one robbery, Jesse and Frank should each have a different attorney. That is not always practical and it usually is not affordable but it is the best way to handle a case.