When you’ve been accused of committing a crime, it’s usually a scramble to find the best criminal defense lawyer in Chicago. Many people feel pressured into retaining the first lawyer who picks up the phone – but that can be a mistake.

Before you choose a criminal defense lawyer, you need to ask five important questions.

How long have you been practicing criminal law in Chicago and the surrounding areas?

Whether you’re in Schaumburg, Skokie, Rolling Meadows or Chicago, you need to know how long your potential attorney has been working in the area. You’ll probably encounter lawyers who work all over Cook County, and that’s normal (lawyers often cover wide territories to help their clients) – but you’ll probably want someone who’s familiar with the courthouse and the local professionals you’ll have to deal with.

How long have you been a lawyer?

You don’t have to pick the oldest lawyer in the book, but you should choose one with substantial experience. Many people find it beneficial to choose a former prosecutor, because attorneys who used to prosecute people are extremely familiar with the ins and outs of Illinois’ justice system.

What percentage of your cases cover criminal law?

Some lawyers provide a range of services, but if you’re up against criminal charges, it’s probably best to work with an attorney who primarily focuses on criminal law. Illinois’ laws are complex and detailed, so an attorney who’s more familiar with divorce law than criminal law may not be the right choice for you.

How can you help me?

If an attorney tells you that he can guarantee the outcome of your case, look for another attorney. A good lawyer will tell you that he can’t guarantee anything, but he can provide you with a good overview of the possible outcomes of your case and will begin building a strategic defense immediately.

What are your rates?

Like with anything else, you often get what you pay for when you’re working with attorneys. That’s not to say that you need the most expensive lawyer – you just need to find a criminal defense attorney who has enough experience and a solid enough reputation to justify his fees.

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