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The necessity of teamwork between lawyer and client

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Few battles and wars are won singlehandedly. An exception is the fictitious ronin Yojimbo, Sanjuoro led the two rival groups to decimate each other.

In court, a criminal defense lawyer battles more strongly the more the lawyer and client are in sync with each other. Following are some essential components to the lawyer-client teamwork:

– Nothing beats face-to-face interaction with clients. In this social media age topped with often long drives and heavy traffic to reach law offices, numerous potential and current clients ask me about talking by phone. Once I have met a client in person, that better warms up communications by phone and email. However, if the interactions for a long time are not face to face, that interferes with developing a stronger attorney-client bond.

Clients jailed pretrial present driving and traffic challenges to the lawyer unless the jail is right near the lawyer, as is the case with the Fairfax County, Virginia, jail. Some jails have non-recorded attorney phone lines. but lawyers and defendants need to watch out for confidentiality over the phone nonetheless, because inmates and jail guards are bound to be passing by the inmate while s/he is on the phone.

For the lawyer to know his or her client all the better, the lawyer should spend time with the client on the client’s turf where the client is particularly comfortable, whether that place be the client’s home, a hiking trail, or a local hangout. If the client is incarcerated, the lawyer can visit the client’s relatives at home.

For clients to open up to their lawyers, face-to-face time is the best. 

–  Lawyers need to make their clients comfortable in the courthouse and the courtroom, even more than a sports team visiting the opponent’s stadium needs to be comfortable in the new stadium, because at least the athletes have stadium experience. For most criminal defendants, their first time in a courthouse  — which is the gladiator stadium — is only after they have been arrested. It is like being thrown into an unfamiliar battleground, where the unrepresented defendant is unequally armed and trained vis Ã  vis the prosecution, and where even the otherwise best criminal defense lawyer is weakened unless s/he prepares his or her defendant client well for court and works well as a team with the defendant.

No matter how many times a criminal defendant goes to courtrooms, the perspective is much different when the defendant is standing just feet from the judge or sitting in the witness stand. A benefit of having pretrial status and motions hearings is to provide the defendant a dress rehearsal for the trial date.

– Like doctors, lawyers do not have all the answers. A lawyer who fails to listen deeply to his or her client — to the client’s words, silence, body language, and vibes  —  is already weakened. I tell my clients that they do not need a law degree to give me important information and words of  clarity and wisdom, and to give me their own perspective on the players in the courtroom and on their case. I tell them that there are no stupid questions, and that not asking or speaking can rob the attorney-client team of essential avenues to investigate, pursue and argue.

Some clients go the opposite route of constantly talking without listening, sometimes out of nervousness and fear of what will be said once they pause. An important balance of communication is essential between clients and their lawyers.

– As enticing as it may be for a lawyer to get a chance to re-connect with colleagues in the courthouse, the VIP is the client. When there is room away from benches reserved for lawyers, I opt to sit with my clients. Some of the best ideas that clients and I come up with can flow during waiting time in the courthouse, which would be lost out if I were waiting alongside colleagues and not with my clients.

All of the foregoing flows from loving my clients.