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 often 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.
Differing expectations is 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 expectations of communication frequency and content when first retaining counsel. This way all parties know what is expected of each other.
A common problem for federal criminal defendants is gaining access to a phone or e-mail, especially directly following arrest. The best way to handle this situation is to set a plan on when your attorney, or their paralegal, will visit and to 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 are communicating effectively with the attorney and imparting the information that he or she needs to know in order to competently represent you.
Connecting with an attorney from jail (or prison, for that matter) can be a headache. If you are having difficulty getting a hold 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.
The biggest mistake you can make when dealing with your attorney is not telling the truth. If you want your criminal defense attorney to be able to competently represent you, you need to tell him or her 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.
If you are having concerns about poor communication it is a good idea to call a meeting. Retained federal criminal defense attorneys are paid 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. Merely agreeing to do better isn’t enough. Set something concrete so that both you and your attorney understand what is expected.