Most people have very limited interaction in daily life with the court system and attorneys. Beyond routine actions like closing on home purchases which require attorney involvement, most hope to stay away from requiring an attorney. However, critical moments in life can bring a sudden need for an attorney to handle potentially life changing events. It could be the death of a family member, and the need to hire an attorney to represent you as personal representative handling an estate. It could be a car wreck in which you, or a family member, were seriously injured due to the negligence of another. It could be that you are being sued after a car wreck or other such mishap. Regardless, it is normally at a critical moment and the decision of your attorney can alter your future.
The critical part of picking an attorney is in finding one you can trust and who has the reputation of being diligent in representing clients. One important indicator is whether or not the attorney has received an "AV Preeminent" peer review rating. As this is determined by the attorneys peers and judges who see everything about the attorney through a professional lens, it is one of the best means of judging. The peer review rankings are based off experience with the attorney, as well as the reputation within the respective bar.
An important aspect of representation is that the client should be kept informed about the case, and the client has the right to change representation at any time if they feel their interests are not being represented properly. The attorney should always make clear he works for the client and the client makes the final big decisions about the case. It is not appropriate to hire an attorney and then direct his every step. You hire an attorney for his expertise in the law and to handle the matters that should be handled by attorneys. However, the big decisions should be presented to the client in lay terms to be made by the client. The client, not the lawyer, will live with the results and this should be respected by the attorney.
I believe it critical to look for an attorney who will always hold the highest ethical standards. Beyond your trust in the attorney during the case, you don't want questionable practices to harm your interests and possibly cause problems well after the case. Attorneys are ethically bound to keep all privileged communications with clients within attorney client privilege. It is during those discussions you will learn something of the character of the attorney. The attorney has the ethical duty to zealously represent his client, but also the duty of truthfulness with the court and third parties. You want this in your attorney, and this kind of person will be one you can trust to give you the best result in your case.