Coaching as Part of My Work as a Criminal Defense Lawyer
Coaching can be important for criminal defendants, says Fairfax criminal lawyer
Coaching has perhaps become an overused phrase by those offering that category of professional services. As a criminal lawyer in Fairfax, Virginia, I view lawyer counseling not as Chris Farley’s cracking us up as the man in the van down by the river. Instead, I know that my clients need counseling and good preparation, running from implementing the self-improvement plan I suggest to them at our initial consultation, dealing with VASAP and other substance programs for DUI and drug cases, dealing (or not) with complainants who are family members or friends in assault and other prosecutions, preparing for trial including possible testimony, sentencing if any, and dealing with pretrial and probation office staff. In fact, the first bit of guidance comes with choosing a criminal defense lawyer in the first place, and I have tips for that here.
Coaching starts with addressing the importance of not disclosing confidential information
Commonly, criminal defendants’ loved ones and close friends want many details about their cases, including what happened. Not answering those questions is important both for a legal and practical reason. Legally, a criminal defendant’s words to a non-lawyer are not protected against the listener’s being subpoenaed by the prosecutor to be forced to repeat those words on the witness stand. From a practical standpoint, being a criminal defendant can be trying enough, without needing to figure out how to explain the situation to one’s family members if indeed the defendant has committed a crime or done something s/he is not proud of to have raised attention to the police (for instance possibly not culpable of DUI, but being stopped for a moving violation while out on a date with a person not the drive’s spouse). I tell my clients that if their friends or family members complain when they clam up about confidential aspects of their case, to feel free to put the blame on me for that. I am delighted to be coaching my clients throughout my representation of them.
Recovering a sense of normalcy, calm and non-sleeplessness in the middle of a prosecution
Many of my clients do not tell me until we finish their case about all the sleepless nights they endured while awaiting the outcome of their case. When I ask my clients how they are doing during our ongoing communications while their cases are ongoing, I am sincerely checking in with them and am open to hearing about sleeplessness and any other side-effects of the stress and anxiety of having a pending criminal or DUI case. While I am not a health care professional, I have ideas for coaching on such issues, which can include suggesting some good psychological counselors, or be as simple as showing and referring them to some mindfulness and meditation techniques, or simply checking whether they are assuring a good balance with diet, exercise, sleep and spiritual practice (which is fine to be either a non-theistic or theistic practice).
My advising criminal defendants not to discuss their confidential information with others means they can turn to me all the more
People need to talk through — or otherwise work through — their challenges and not to leave that bottled up inside. By my telling my criminal and DUI defense clients not to discuss their cases with others, that leaves a limited universe of people to talk with them, which is myself, and also usually from a practical standpoint their psychological professional and pastoral counselor (if any), unless they are at risk of being subpoenaed by the prosecution to be forced to repeat my clients’ words on the witness stand. The right coaching can go a long way.
No question from my criminal or DUI defense client is a stupid one
No question from my client is a stupid question, but instead is an important question for being on my client’s mind. Even my smartest clients are fish out of water, sometimes feeling like they are at best treading water. The point of my representing and coaching criminal and DUI defendants is for us to obtain as much victory as possible for the micro side of their case, where a benefit of doing so will hopefully also be to help them in larger aspects of their lives, both to reduce collateral damage from their cases, and to help them move on with their lives without facing repeat arrests and prosecutions.
Coaching for implementation of my recommended self-improvement path
There being no stupid questions when it comes to my representing and coaching criminal and DUI defense clients, my clients should never hesitate to ask me questions or for guidance about implementing and even updating and refining my suggested path for self-improvement to assist with seeking lay complainants to recommend a favorable case outcome, case negotiations, and sentencing when any sentencing takes place. It is easier for me from my armchair to suggest a self improvement path to my clients that will take hours of their time and money. When I make these suggestions, it is because my experience and gut tell me of the importance of such a path, and I am here to help my clients make this path work and to be beneficial to them.
I am also here to encourage my clients to make the time for self improvement work, and to help them prioritize which of my suggested assignments are most important. I personally know how relieving it can be to get such coaching, as I recall contacting the head of the Virginia bar exam class that I took via tape and books as I worked full time as a trial lawyer. When I told him what aspects of his suggested schedule I had fallen behind on, he told me what priority to give to his study plan. Not only did that give me more confidence in my Virginia bar study approach, but it also yielded my passing the exam on the first try.
Do you want a criminal defense lawyer who will simply tell you not to worry, or who will keep you informed and coached along the way?
When my former law partner and I met with a great business lawyer for him to draft our partnership agreement, it was only my deep trust in him from having worked together previously at the same law firm that made me willing to accept his telling me that he would charge a fair fee (and he did) for such work, without providing us a retainer agreement spelling that all out. However, my gut told me that I should have gotten that billing formula from this lawyer in the first place. That experience alone has me keeping each of my criminal and DUI defense clients fully informed about the opportunities and challenges in their cases, and my view on the alternatives and best choices for tackling the issues in their cases. When I include coaching my clients, I am never telling them “Don’t worry about it; it will all work out,” but instead am identifying the opportunities and challenges in their cases and the best way to obtain as much victory for them as possible.
Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan L. Katz pursues your best defense against felony, misdemeanor, and DUI prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for a free consultation with Jon Katz about your court-pending criminal or DWI case.