How do I Choose the Best Trial Attorney?

Alexis W.

In order to choose the best trial attorney, you need to understand the function of a trial attorney. You also need to find out what skills this attorney will need for your case. Finally, you need to consult the appropriate resources when looking for a trial attorney.

A trial attorney is a lawyer who represents individuals in a court of law.
A trial attorney is a lawyer who represents individuals in a court of law.

A trial attorney, or a litigation attorney, is a lawyer who represents you in a court of law. There are several different types of trial lawyers which are broadly classified into civil and criminal attorneys. Criminal trial lawyers, or defense lawyers, represent you in a criminal trial. Civil lawyers represent you in civil cases such as contract disputes, torts, or other such cases.

Choose an attorney that specializes in the area of law that you need.
Choose an attorney that specializes in the area of law that you need.

A trial lawyer is distinct from a transactional attorney. Transactional attorneys do not usually represent clients in a court of law, but instead work behind the scenes to write and interpret contracts, or do other such legal work. When choosing a trial attorney, therefore, you must first ensure you are dealing with a law firm or lawyer who specializes in litigation, or trial work, and not transactional work.

You can find a list of lawyers who specialize in trial work by contacting the local chapter of the American Bar Association. The American Bar Association, or ABA, is a professional organization of lawyers that exists on a national level. The American Bar Association has local chapters in every state, and they can provide you with a list of members.

When selecting the best trial attorney, you also want to ensure you hire an attorney who specializes in the particular area of law that you are going to trial for. For example, contract attorneys are very different than tax attorneys. A general litigator may handle many different types of trial law, but it is usually best to work with a specialist in the field when going to trial.

Once you have a list of attorneys in your area, you can begin doing independent research on the attorneys. Good attorneys are usually involved in their field. This means they often belong to organizations within the industry, or they lecture on the subject or publish papers and other material. Since you want a passionate attorney, it is a good idea to do an internet search to see if the attorneys you are considering have published any articles, or have been involved in any high profile cases.

You also want to see how the attorney has performed in the past. Go to your local county clerk's office and request to see cases in which your perspective attorney is listed as the attorney-of-record. You can review case transcripts to see the outcome of the case and determine if the trial attorney did a good job. You can also check with the county clerk or state disciplinary board to determine if the trial attorney you are considering has ever had a malpractice suit brought against him.

Finally, meet with several attorneys, and see who you feel comfortable with. Trial attorneys have to speak in court, so make sure that they speak convincingly, and that they make a good impression since this will matter with the judge or jury. Finally, pay attention to whether they seem invested in being your advocate and voice throughout the trial process.

County clerk files can be checked, to see how attorneys fared in past court trials.
County clerk files can be checked, to see how attorneys fared in past court trials.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- Good advice and I will go even farther than that. You don't want just a good trial lawyer. You want one that is good at handling the kind of case you have. You wouldn't want a lawyer who has specialized in probate trials handling your murder case any more than you would want a divorce attorney handling your car wreck case.

A fascinating thing about lawyers is that few people seem to understand they specialize. You will not find a whole of of people with asthma scheduling appointments with a proctologist, but you will find people asking contract lawyers (or whatever) to handle custody cases.

Strange, but very true!


@Melonlity -- That is often a very good way. Whatever you do, don't just go pick out any old attorney that you happen to like. Not all attorneys make good trial attorneys or even care much about becoming great trail lawyers.

A lot of lawyers spend their time doing things like drafting contracts, writing will and drafting trusts. There is nothing wrong with any of those skills, but they don't exactly translate to the courtroom, do they?

While a lawyer who spends his or her time writing wills should let a potential client know they don't do a lot of trial work, you might catch one going through a dry spell who needs cash and needs work. One of those lawyers might be tempted to grab a case that could be headed for trial out of desperation. That is not the lawyer you want representing you in a courtroom.


Find one that has won some trials. That is how you find the best civil trial attorney or criminal trial trouble. You can research cases online in a lot of jurisdictions, cross index by attorney and pick won with a good record.

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