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Hiring a Lawyer

This guide provides information on where to find a lawyer, how to effectively work with your lawyer, and how to resolve attorney-client disputes.

Can I get a court-appointed attorney in a criminal case?

Defendants in criminal proceedings have a constitutional right to be represented by an attorney. This right is established by the Sixth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

In Texas, a defendant's right to an attorney is written into Articles 1.05 and 1.051 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure. The law applies if:

  • a conviction might result in jail or prison time; or
  • the court determines that representation is necessary in the interest of justice.

If you can't afford an attorney, the court may appoint one for you. You'll likely qualify if:

  • you make below a certain income; and
  • you were charged with a felony, a class A misdemeanor, or a class B misdemeanor.

You can also ask for a court-appointed attorney in some criminal appeals and habeas corpus proceedings. 

How do I ask for a court-appointed attorney?

A defense attorney is not assigned automatically. You will need to ask the court to appoint one for you. You'll need to fill out a written application and show evidence that you can't afford to pay for a lawyer. 

It's recommended to ask for a court-appointed lawyer as soon as possible. You can ask for an application from the magistrate, jailer, court clerk, or judge. 

Can I get a court-appointed attorney for an expunction or nondisclosure order?

Petitions to remove or seal past criminal records don't qualify for a court-appointed attorney. Several legal aid organizations host free clinics to help with expunctions and nondisclosure orders. Free legal aid is usually reserved for low-income individuals. 

Can I get a court-appointed attorney in a juvenile case?

Minors between 10-17 years old who are accused of delinquent conduct are usually tried in juvenile courts. If the child does not have an attorney, the court will ask the parents to hire one for them. If the parents can't afford an attorney, the court will appoint them a public attorney. This law is in Texas Family Code Section 51.10.

Can I fire my court-appointed attorney?

Depending on the situation, you may be able to fire your court-appointed attorney. However, you may not get another court-appointed attorney, which can mean representing yourself in court. See Rule 1.15, Comment 5 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct for more information.

Can I get a court-appointed attorney in a civil case?

Most defendants in civil and family law cases don't have a right to a court-appointed attorney. The parties may hire an attorney at their own expense or apply for legal aid.

There are exceptions for some cases, usually involving children, disabilities, or involuntary commitment. Whether you have to pay for a court-appointed attorney will depend on the type of case and on your ability to pay. We list a number of Texas statutes that discuss court-appointed attorneys in civil lawsuits.

Sections 24.016 and 26.049 of the Texas Government Code also allow district and county courts to appoint attorneys at their discretion. Such appointments are usually reserved for exceptional circumstances. 


Child Custody

Child Custody—Understanding the Law

Civil Contempt

Commitment to Treatment

Emancipation of Minors




Truancy (School Absence)