There are many reasons to hire an attorney rather than representing yourself or going with a public defender. With regard to public defenders, they juggle a high volume of cases and may not have the time to give your case the attention it deserves. They might also not be as knowledgeable as you would like about your specific charge. As for representing yourself, the average defendant lacks legal skills and the knowledge of deadlines. Even if you have legal savvy, you might be too close to the case to determine fruitful approaches.
On the other hand, hiring just any random attorney does not necessarily mean you have gained a huge advantage. You have to hire the right type of attorney, one who knows the laws surrounding your case and who can lend credibility to your defense.
What is attorney credibility?
Credibility includes many angles. For example, maybe attorney XYZ appears often in certain judges' courtrooms, and the judges respect the attorney and are more likely to give the attorney leeway. Or, credibility could be a long and varied history in criminal defense with the attorney also having prosecutorial or perhaps police experience. Community involvement and involvement with a group such as the California Bar Association or a city legal group can make an attorney seem more credible too.
A proven record of effectiveness in court also goes a long way toward establishing credibility. For a client seeking a lawyer for a criminal charge, this probably means finding an attorney who has a track record with this specific type of charge -- getting charges reduced, making smart plea deals or having clients found not guilty in court.
Why it matters even more in your case
Having a credible attorney in itself is great. However, it can really give you a boost because this credible, well-regarded person has evaluated your case and decided to take it on. In other words, this attorney means instant credibility for you too.