Why hire a civilian lawyer?
All members of the military have the right to be represented by a military lawyer who is appointed to represent you at no cost to you. You also have the right to hire a civilian defense lawyer at your own expense. You may be thinking “Why would I pay for a civilian when I get a military attorney for free?” The short answer is that your appointed JAG attorney is often best as part of a team led by an experienced, capable civilian defense counsel.
Your Case, Your Choice
There are some great military defense attorneys who might get assigned to your case. When I served in the Air Force, I met some military attorneys who were incredible litigators, extremely smart, and intensely dedicated to their clients. On the other hand, I met some who did not truly want to be defense attorneys, and it showed. When you get an appointed attorney, you do not get to choose who is assigned to your case.
When you choose a civilian defense counsel, you get a say in who represents you. You want someone who’s personality works well with yours. I’ll take the time to listen to your concerns. I am blunt and honest in my assessment of your case, I tell you why we are doing what we do, and I give you all the advice you need before you have to make your own potentially difficult decisions. I am patient while explaining the process to you because I believe it is very important for you to understand what is happening in your case. You will be included every step of the way, and your input will always be valued.
Many military attorneys are overworked new lawyers with very little trial experience. I encourage you to ask your assigned counsel how much experience they have. Have they ever litigated your type of case? How many years have they been an attorney or a defense counsel? How many courts-martial have they tried and how many of those were before a panel of members? Can you be involved throughout the process, and if so, how much? Finally, how do you feel after hearing their answers, knowing that your future rests in their hands?
I have extensive trial experience, and I manage my workload to make sure I have enough time for every client’s case. I never lose focus on protecting my clients’ rights. If a case can be dismissed or any charges can be dropped before trial, I try to make that happen. If we go to trial, I do not back down from litigation of any kind. I am confident and do not get intimidated by anyone or anything in the military. I don’t have to worry about my evaluation, getting a good next assignment, or impressing a chain of command. I only worry about your case.
It Takes A Team
When you choose a civilian defense counsel, you are picking the leader for your team. For me, the attorney-client relationship is based in teamwork. Having a high-functioning team is the surest path to victory. I pride myself on leading great teams. In fact, it was integral to my success in the Air Force. I was dropped into situations where I had no prior working relationship with junior counsel and had potentially never met them in person before, and I had to swiftly and effectively establish order and direction. In my cases now, we assemble the best team possible, including your JAG attorney, a paralegal, and whatever experts we may need in the case. We work as a team throughout the process.
Do you need a civilian defense attorney?
Not everyone will decide they want a civilian defense attorney. But in some cases, it might be the wise choice or even required to ensure your freedom. Servicemembers have so much to lose when they are facing a court-martial: job, retirement, rank, bonuses, benefits. A guilty verdict can result in jail time. A bad conduct discharge, dishonorable discharge, or dismissal can permanently scar future job opportunities. Some are facing sex offender registration that can follow them for the rest of their lives. When you hire a civilian attorney, you are investing in your future. Consider the investment in light of everything you have to lose.
Ultimately, you want an attorney who you feel will do the best job representing you. You don’t want to spend your future questioning whether a better attorney could have gotten you a better outcome. My most important goal is that you feel like we have done everything we can to get you the best result possible for your case. At the end of the day, you will see that I have worked hard, been dedicated to our success, and passionately fought tooth-and-nail for you. I don’t settle for less.