Aberrations of TP53 (mutations and/or deletions) are associated with a dismal prognosis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Complete loss of ATM is another mechanism of failed DNA damage response and also associated with poorer prognosis in CLL. However, p53 dysfunction may arise through alternative mechanisms unrelated to structural aberrations (deletion and/or mutation) of TP53 or ATM, and thus be undetectable by traditional DNA-directed approaches (fluorescence in situ hybridization [FISH], sequencing, karyotyping). In order to address the latter changes, and also to better understand the consequences of TP53/ATM aberrations, p53 functional assays have recently been developed. The purpose of dynamic assessment of p53 response in CLL is to carry out a comprehensive analysis of all mechanisms causing p53-deficient phenotype, including those unrelated to genomic aberrations of TP53 and ATM. The present review focuses on the current knowledge of p53 function assays in CLL, including important features such as technical issues, correlation with structural aberrations and clinical value.