If you know you are going to have issues and have already decided that you need a security clearance attorney to help you get through the DOD security clearance process, the best time to retain the attorney is at the beginning of the process; namely, before you complete the security questionnaire. The reason for this is that the information you provide on the questionnaire is critical, and could, by itself, determine whether you will be granted a security clearance. An experienced security clearance lawyer can advise you how to truthfully answer the questionnaire in a way that puts the best light on your situation. Remember, once you complete and submit the questionnaire, the information you provided is now part of your permanent security file. If you answer the security questionnaire on your own and then hire an attorney, you may have already dug such a deep hole for yourself that even an experienced security clearance lawyer cannot dig you out.
If you have already answered the security questionnaire on your own, and thereby missed out on the advice given in the previous paragraph, keep in mind that the sooner you retain the attorney the better. As with the information you provided on the security questionnaire, each time you provide information to the DOD, whether it is provided during an interview with an OPM investigator, in response to interrogatories (written questions) sent to you by the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals (DOHA), in response to a Letter of Intent (LOI) or Letter of Denial (LOD) from a Central Adjudication Facility (CAF), or in response to a Statement of Reasons (SOR) sent to you by DOHA, the information becomes part of your permanent security file. An experienced security clearance attorney can advise you how to provide truthful and consistent information at each stage of the investigation. The importance of providing consistent information throughout the investigative stage of the process cannot be overstated. During my 20+ years as a DOHA Administrative Judge (AJ), I handled many cases where an individual had provided so much inconsistent and contradictory information during the investigative stage of the process that by the time they appeared at the DOHA Hearing or Personal Appearance (PA), they had little chance of obtaining a clearance.
Finally, if you have received a Notice of Hearing or Notice of PA from DOHA, and you still intend to retain a security clearance attorney to represent you, stop procrastinating and contact an attorney immediately! This is extremely important for two reasons. First, finding an experienced security clearance lawyer at the right price may take time. Second, once you find that attorney, it will take time to form a strategy and gather the right evidence. Having sufficient time for you and your attorney to prepare your case is essential to a successful outcome.