Question 1: "If I hire you, will you be the lawyer handling our case?"
If you are hiring a lawyer to represent either yourself or a loved one, you want to make sure that the lawyer you are hiring is actually the lawyer who is going to handle your case. Believe it or not, there are lawyers out there who will gladly charge you $20,000 to take your case, but never even go to any of the court dates! Instead, they will simply send another, far less experienced lawyer whom you probably have not even met. When hiring your lawyer, ask him/her directly: "If I hire you, will you be the lawyer handling our case?"
Question 2: "Are you a lawyer?"
Yes, this might sound ridiculous. But there really are law firms out there who have individuals, dressed like lawyers, do all of the "intake" interviews. These people will not directly state that they are lawyers, but they certainly try to give you that impression. These non-lawyer staff are not bound by the same ethical rules that govern lawyers, nor are they trained in the law, nor do they have court room experience handling real cases with real clients. So make sure the person you are talking to is actually a lawyer. Any lawyer who hires sales people to talk to you, and who cannot be bothered to speak to you one-on-one is probably not going to bother to do any work on your case either.
Question 3: "What guarantees can you make?"
If the lawyer (or non-lawyer staff) starts making wonderful promises to you about beating the charges or getting you a great deal, you should be thinking to yourself: but has this lawyer even seen the evidence yet? How can this lawyer make these promises when they only know a few details that we told them? The only guarantee that a lawyer can ethically make is a guarantee that he/she will handle your case with 100% of their ability.