The United States government guarantees fair representation to anyone accused of a criminal offense. The provision of this right makes navigating the legal process much more complex. If you are arrested for a crime and want to seek legal representation, you might have the option to choose between a private attorney and a public defender. In this post, we will explain the differences between the two, and tell you whether you should hire a public defender or opt for a private attorney.


Public defenders have a lot in common with private defense attorneys. They are full-fledged attorneys, and like every other lawyer, they earn a Juris Doctorate and pass the state bar. When it comes to experience, the experience of a public defender will vary depending on the individual just as it would for a private attorney. Most public defenders initially work in misdemeanors before being assigned more serious cases like those involving homicide or sexual assault.

Public defenders and Private attorneys also differ in terms of the resources available to them. Public defenders generally have larger caseloads and, therefore, don’t have a lot of time to spend on individual clients. Not only that, but these attorneys have less access to vital tools like private investigators. It is worth noting that several factors affect the resources available to a private defender, including how well-funded the office of the public defender is. Private defenders, on the other hand, will generally have an unlimited amount of resources and time to spend on their clients. They will put in more time into the case and utilize more resources if the client is willing to pay more money.

The salary of a public defender is significantly less than that of a private attorney. This difference generally varies among each jurisdiction. It is worth noting that even if there is a major pay difference between a private attorney and public defender, this difference won’t reflect on the quality of service that is provided by the public defender. In fact, being appointed a public defender is quite difficult. Public defenders are generally committed to their jobs and would put decent effort into the case.

Another major difference between private attorneys and public defenders is that public defenders can’t generally refuse cases. If your case qualifies, the public defender assigned to it can’t refuse it unless there is a good reason. Private attorneys can refuse to take on any case for any reason if they want to.


When a defendant can’t afford to hire a private attorney and request the court to appoint a lawyer for them, a public defender might be appointed. In this case, the defendant might not have to pay too much to get legal representation. Public defenders are familiar with different kinds of criminal cases and usually have a lot of experience. They work with defendants on a regular basis and can provide a decent legal representation to them.


A public defender is an employee of the government. They generally make less money than private attorneys. Since a large number of people aren’t able to afford a private attorney, public defenders usually have to handle a lot of cases. Therefore, these attorneys are generally overworked. Because of being overworked, public defenders may not have enough time to prepare for the case and may make mistakes.

Since public defenders handle a lot of cases at a time, they may not have time to meet their clients. They may sometime meet their client just minutes before they enter a plea. Moreover, public defenders may try to plead out of the case to reduce the caseload. This is why a public defender may not take the time to formulate a solid defense.

Another caveat of going with a public defender is that you won’t have the choice to select the lawyer as their appointment is made by the court. If you aren’t satisfied with the performance of your lawyer, you might not get a new attorney to represent you.


Private lawyers generally don’t have to take on too many cases at a time. This way, they can focus on serving their clients better and give them more time. Since a private attorney has more time to spend on each case, they can meet with the defendant and put more effort into gathering evidence that will strengthen the defense. This helps private lawyers find a weakness in the case that might help get the charges reduced or have the case dismissed.

Since the defendant is paying for all the costs, the private attorney may use other resources for the defense. They may spend more resources finding expert witnesses that will aid the case. Private laborites may also be used for testing evidence that is to be presented in the court. Private investigators may be used to discover crucial evidence that will help the defense. Private attorneys also have associates, paralegals, and other staff that can help them with the case.

Private attorneys can be contacted by phone anytime, while it is tough to reach public defenders. When hiring a private attorney, you can meet them and determine whether you want them to represent you. You will have the choice to choose which lawyer should represent you. Since the court doesn’t assign private attorneys, they rely on satisfied clients to maintain their reputation and business. This is why they do a great job and give their 100 percent.


One disadvantage of using a private attorney for representation is that you have to pay for their services. This can be a huge amount depending on the seriousness of the case and the resources it utilizes. However, the advantages of hiring a private attorney outweigh this disadvantage.


No, there are no surveys suggesting that public defenders are better than private attorneys or vice versa. Surveys haven’t been able to settle this issue due to several reasons. For one thing, offices of public defenders vary too much by jurisdiction, which makes it difficult to conduct surveys on the general effectiveness of public defenders. Another problem is that there are a lot of factors at play to come to any meaningful conclusion. For example, public defenders generally have to defend low-income clients, and the seriousness of the cases that they handle may be different from that of the cases handled by private attorneys. Thus, it isn’t a surprise that surveys aren’t able to reach a meaningful conclusion.


If you need an attorney to represent you, we have provided some suggestions that would help you in selecting the right lawyer.

  • Many people who qualify for representation by a public defender can also afford to hire a private attorney if required. If you can afford a private attorney and qualify for a public defender, you must decide whether you should go with a private attorney or a public defender. To make the right decision, you should consider how serious the crime is and how difficult it is to prove that you haven’t committed the crime. For example, if the police arrested you for a simple misdemeanor, and you are sure of your innocence, then you should hire a private attorney. Doing so will ensure that you are released, and your name is cleared. A private attorney would work on your case and collect the evidence required. They would utilize their resources to ensure that you have a solid defense and that you win the case. On the other hand, if you committed a serious crime and you know that the evidence is stacked against you, it might be a better option to hire a public defender instead of losing your money on a private attorney and losing the case too.
  • If you end up hiring a public defender, you must ensure that you get the attention of the attorney. Inspire them, and convince them that your case deserves more time. Your attorney may size you up when you meet them for the first time, so try to make a good impression by dressing conservatively and talking politely. This may help you later in the case if it goes to trial because your attorney would be confident to put you on the stand. You should also help your attorney with the work whenever possible because they don’t have a lot of time to pay attention to each individual case. You can provide phone logs, photographs, timelines, names and addresses of potential witnesses, etc.
  • Non-profit legal organizations are another option for you. Most locations will have these kinds of organizations funded by government aids, donations from individuals, and grants. They provide legal services to those who have difficulty affording it.



Public defenders are overworked as they take on a lot more cases than a private defender. While it is good that more people receive legal representation, it can have a detrimental effect on individual cases. Public defenders can’t dedicate enough time to each individual case and thus may not be able to give the best legal representation. On the other hand, private attorneys handle significantly fewer cases at a time. Therefore, they will give more time to your case, and you can meet with them to discuss the particulars of your case.


Public defenders are handling many cases at a time, which is why they can’t dedicate enough resources to each individual case. On the other hand, private attorneys will allocate as many resources to your case as required as long as you are willing to pay for their services. This means that you will have a better chance of getting your name cleared.


Since private attorneys have more time and resources on their hands, they are generally able to give you a better legal representation. They put more effort into collecting evidence and gathering information that can help your case. As such, you will have a better chance of winning the case if you hire a private attorney.


If you have the money to afford a private attorney and want reliable legal representation to clear your name, then you should hire a private attorney. Private attorneys have more resources and time for handling each individual case. They also meet with their clients and can be contacted by phone. They can utilize their resources like additional staff members to aid the case. Therefore, they are a better option than public defenders. People who can’t afford private attorneys or those who know that they don’t have any chance of winning the case should go with public defenders. Public defenders are government employees and thus don’t charge a lot of fees. They might not be able to dedicate too much time to the case, but they will try to give you a decent representation. Therefore, they are a good option for people who can’t afford to be represented by a private attorney.