Is Communication With Your Attorney Important?

Is Communication With Your Attorney Important?
by Richard McDonald

Yes. Communication with your attorney is important. When it comes to federal criminal prosecutions, there often isn’t a ton that an attorney can do. But one common complaint is poor communication with an attorney. Luckily, this is one challenge that can be rectified. Here are some ideas and techniques for managing expectations with your lawyer.

Can you discuss expectations on communication with your attorney?

Yes. Differing expectations is the most likely communication issue when dealing with your attorney. Attorneys are experts at the law, and some could learn better customer service skills. Discussing expectations of communication frequency is vital. Ask your potential lawyer questions about call backs. If you call and leave a message, when can you expect a call back? This way, all parties know what is expected of each other.

Can you plan communication with your attorney?

Yes. If you’ve been arrested and taken into custody, you may find gaining access to phone or email is difficult.  This is especially true right after your arrest. You’ll need to set up a plan with your attorney. Consider the times when they will visit. In between visits, plan to communicate with your attorney through letters.

Connecting with your attorney from jail (or prison, for that matter) can be a headache. If you are out on bail, communication issues can still be a huge obstacle for you. If you are having difficulty communicating with your attorney, then try reaching them via social media. Most attorneys are on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Be creative. You can also ask family members to reach out on your behalf.

Photo courtesy of Kerkez on iStock via Getty Images.

Should you be honest with your attorney?

Yes. The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with your attorney is not telling the truth.  They need to know what happened, when it occurred, the facts of the incident, and your role.  You should tell the complete truth to your attorney, regardless of if you are guilty of the offense.

Should you ignore poor communication with your attorney? 

No. If you are having concerns about communication with your attorney, ask for a meeting. It is important for your attorney to understand your expectations when it comes to communication. Developing a “communication plan” is essential. It can help avoid misunderstandings. It can also help avoid hurt feelings during the different phases of your case.

Retained criminal defense attorneys collect a lot of money to represent you. With your retainer check comes their attention. Express your concerns in a straightforward and respectful manner. Another good tactic is to clarify your expectations. Agreeing to do better isn’t enough. Set expectations on communication with your attorney — something concrete so that both you and your attorney understand expectations.

Does this apply to court-appointed attorneys? 

Yes. You should still have effective communication, even with your court-appointed attorney. You might not receive the same type of attention from a court-appointed lawyer as with a private counsel. Some court-appointed lawyers have huge caseloads. Regardless, every criminal defendant has the right to competent counsel.

There are instances where lawyers refuse to communicate with clients about their case. If that occurs, their representation can be deemed ineffective assistance of counsel. This is an appealable issue. But this isn’t a stick that should be used from the start. Public defenders are often very good attorneys. Present your concerns in a rational, responsible manner. And they should do their best to address your concerns.

The Takeaway:

The key is to ensure that you are communicating with your attorney. Remember, your attorney cannot represent you in the best way if you are not communicating effectively. But you are not their only client, and you have to be reasonable.

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