The public defenders who work for the Public Defender Service and the Federal Public Defender Service in DC command respect and admiration for their hard work and dedication. These groups have talented attorneys, a good training program, and are highly selective in terms of who they hire.
However, public defenders also have heavy caseloads. Thus, they do not have the ability to extend the same amount of time and care to each individual case that a private attorney would, simply because they have to take a certain amount of cases that come from court appointments. Private attorneys can pick and choose which cases they take, so they generally do not have huge caseloads that would keep them from paying close attention to each of their cases.
Generally, private attorneys will go out of their way to make sure that they communicate adequately with their client. Oftentimes, defense attorneys will need to communicate with both client and family members to make sure that their needs are met. It may be harder to get in touch with a defense attorney who has a very heavy caseload because the defense attorney’s time is stretched so thin.
A person wants a lawyer who is the total package. This means that the lawyer will have the right experience and connections, but also has a temperament and a personality that makes the person feel comfortable. For the most part, criminal cases are decided by juries. People in general are more persuaded by lawyers with whom they have an emotional connection which can affect the outcome of the case. Sometimes, a connection can mean the difference between hearing and being persuaded by an argument and completely tuning it out.
It is important to select an attorney who has a vision for the case, who understands where the case is going from the inception, and who can explain to a person in a very organized and detailed fashion how they are going to prepare the defense. A person should be skeptical of an attorney who promises or guarantees an outcome because none of us have a crystal ball and none of us know how a case is going to play out.
An experienced attorney knows that certain types of evidence, certain types of arguments, and certain witnesses can strongly benefit a case. A person will want an attorney who is confident in their abilities and skills, who believes in the person, and who sees the total picture.
Honesty is the most important quality in any relationship, whether it is attorney-client, husband and wife, judge and juror, attorney and juror, or police officer and citizen. There must be honesty and there must be trust. It is important for attorneys to share with their clients the facts or scenarios that could arise that might not be favorable to the client. This will allow the client to see the full picture.
It is also important for clients to be completely truthful with their attorney about what has gone on in the case, even if they think the facts are bad. If the defense attorney understands and knows all of the facts, they can prepare for the prosecutor’s argument and try to soften the blow. If a criminal defense attorney is caught by surprise, their ability to effectively represent you has been compromised.
It is very important for there to be absolute honesty between the attorney and the client. This includes sharing facts that a person may think are bad or that might hurt the case. Lawyers understand that the law is complex, and there are things that the defendant may think are horrible but that may not seem nearly as bad when looked at through the eyes of a seasoned trial attorney.