Working With Your Criminal Defense Attorney

Those convicted of crimes, especially those serving time in prison, often have bad things to say about their attorneys. This is just the way that it goes. And when it comes to federal criminal prosecutions, there usually isn’t a ton that an attorney can do. But one common gripe is the complaint of poor communication with an attorney. Luckily, this is one challenge that can be rectified. On this page, you will find ideas and techniques for managing expectations and communicating effectively with counsel, whether retained or appointed.

Discuss expectations

Differing expectations are the most likely communication issue when dealing with your attorney. Attorneys are experts at the law, not necessarily customer service. A great way to get off on the right, productive foot is to discuss communication frequency and content expectations when first retaining counsel. This way, all parties know what is expected of each other.

Plan communications

A common problem for federal criminal defendants is gaining access to a phone or email, especially directly following arrest. The best way to handle this situation is to plan when your attorney or paralegal will visit and supplement these planned visits with letters. While this can feel as though you might not have much control, this is probably as good as it gets from the confines of a jail cell. The key is to ensure that you communicate effectively with the attorney and impart the information they need to know to represent you competently.

Connecting with an attorney from jail (or prison, for that matter) can be a headache. If you are having difficulty getting ahold of your attorney, it can sometimes be helpful to ask a family member or friend to call or email the attorney and advise that you would like to speak with them.

Tell the truth

The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with your attorney is not telling the truth. If you want your criminal defense attorney to represent you competently, you must tell them the complete, absolute truth. They need to know what happened, when it occurred, the facts of the incident, and your part. This is the person you should tell the complete truth to, regardless of if you are guilty of the offense.

Call a meeting

If you have concerns about poor communication, calling a meeting is a good idea. Retained federal criminal defense attorneys are paid a lot of money to represent you. With your retainer check comes their attention. Express your concerns straightforwardly and respectfully. Another good tactic is to clarify your expectations. Merely agreeing to do better isn’t enough. Set something concrete so that you and your attorney understand what is expected.

Air your concerns

If you have court-appointed counsel, you might lack some of the umph from not being the one cutting the checks. Regardless, every federal criminal defendant enjoys the right to competent counsel. This is an absolute right. If an attorney refuses to communicate with you about your case, their representation has been ineffective, and this is an appealable issue. But this isn’t a stick that should be used from the start. Follow the same advice as presented for those with retained counsel. Federal public defenders are generally outstanding attorneys. Present your concerns in a rational, responsible manner, and they should revise their actions accordingly.

If you’d like more information on communicating with your attorney more effectively, contact us.