Sep 10, 2017 Virginia criminal lawyer on the need to work the case for the client once hired
Once I am hired by a criminal defense client, what is left is for me to work the case and fully defend my client. That holds true even if I ultimately realize that more work is involved than is reflected in the fee agreed to with my client.
Clients are not widgets to be processed through a lawyer’s office. Criminal defendants have chosen their lawyer with the expectation that that the lawyer will work with full commitment for the client, and with the hope that their choice of lawyer will make a positive difference in their case.
I remain stunned about the lawyers who at various times have told me that I am too committed to my clients, including (paraphrasing):
– ‘Why don’t you just plead your client guilty and get out of court earlier this afternoon as a result?’ (We went to trial and did no worse than if there had been a guilty plea.)
– ‘Why be so concerned about this judge’s bypassing major procedural rules?’ (I declined to be part of that bypassing.)
– ‘Why not just have your client do the 251 [first time] marijuana program? (We went to trial and got an acquittal.)
Not only am I obligated by the lawyers’ professional conduct rules to fully defend my clients, but my own code of honor demands the same. Moreover, if a lawyer wants to derive true meaning from his or her work, that includes providing a full and effective defense to his or her clients, and reaching a true human connection with the client.
Part of fully defending a client’s case is to know and relate well with the client; and to fully understand the client and his or her relevant story as a person and about the case in order to best understand and develop a defense, and to convey the client’s interests and best picture through any testimony, negotiations, other discussions, trial, and any sentencing.
Another part of fully defending a criminal defense client is to discuss the client’s case (confidentially, of course) with colleagues (often ideal talk with colleagues who do and do not work in the particular jurisdiction) and staff, to get both the lawyers’ and non-lawyers’ views. Doing so keeps the ideas and defense fresh and strengthened. Doing otherwise can lead to counterproductive insular thinking and approaches.
Helping the client does not end with the court’s final disposition. I debrief my clients on the results of their case, and make myself available for their subsequent questions, requests, comments and concerns.
This all requires the lawyer’s time and full attention. That means working substantial hours in the process, to be fully prepared at every turn. The exhilaration and satisfaction that comes from going the extra mile for one’s client is phenomenal. The client’s appreciation for such efforts is clear.
Jon Katz has been defending thousands of criminal defense clients since 1991. He is available to discuss your case at his Fairfax City main office and Arlington courthouse area satellite office, by contacting his staff at 703-383-1100.