What This Criminal Defense Lawyer Looks For In A Client

by Jamison Koehler on June 22, 2010

JW, one of my favorite readers/commenters, has proposed a blog topic.  He says he has read a lot about what a client should look for when hiring a criminal defense lawyer. Now that JW himself is in the market for a lawyer, he would like to know what a lawyer considers when deciding whether or not to take on a client.

Speaking only for myself, I try to be open-minded about the clients and types of cases I take on. It is good to try cases in areas in which I already have a lot of experience. At the same time, I am always open to broadening my experience by taking on new kinds of cases in which more preparation will be required.

Since I consider myself fairly open to most clients and to most types of cases, I will turn JW’s question around to focus on the circumstances in which I might decline to provide the representation.  Below are four red flags that could give me pause.

1.    Inability to Pay My Fee. As someone has suggested, you should pick your pro bono clients, not have them pick you.  Dickering over the fee is often a harbinger of future problems.

2.    Scheduling Conflicts. I don’t want to be one of those lawyers who, juggling too many cases, is always arriving late to court.  It annoys the judge and damages your reputation.  It is unfair to the client.

3.    History With Other Lawyers.  If a client says he was dissatisfied with two or three previous lawyers on the same case, there is a pretty good chance the client will be dissatisfied with my work as well.  Who needs that headache?

4.    Lack of Chemistry, Candor And/Or Cooperation. I have fired only one client, and that was only after I decided that I wouldn’t be able to represent him effectively.  The client and I parted on good terms, I have talked at length with his new lawyer, and I am confident he is in very capable hands.  (It was an interesting case that was clearly going to trial so I have to admit to some second thoughts on that call.)  There are also other intangibles.  Sometimes it just doesn’t feel right.

2 Comments on “What This Criminal Defense Lawyer Looks For In A Client

  1. Thanks for the response. I expected 1, 2 and 3, but never thought about 4.

    I remember the first attorney I spoke to … he was experienced, aggressive and sharp as a tack. I remember as he was asking me questions, I was thinking to myself “I’d hate to be on the witness stand with him cross-examining me.”
    He also didn’t have a computer in his office. I didn’t hire him. I sometimes wonder if that was wise on my behalf.

  2. “Dickering over the fee is often a harbinger of future problems.”, sometimes we clients are just short of cash… I am so thankful that you hired me even after I sincerely expressed my inability to pay the regular fee in full. You made a HUGE difference in the course that my case (and my life) ended up taking. Thanks Jamison.

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