How to Be a Good Defense Attorney

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of articles popping up all over the internet about how to find a good defense attorney, and many have some great advice. That good advice can be turned around, however, to help defense attorneys become better at their jobs, and provide the exact kind of service that their clients are looking for. If you are a defense attorney looking to become good at your job, you are in the right place! Just follow the steps below to be a good defense attorney.


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    Know your limits. Take a few minutes to assess your skills and abilities, honestly, and to understand what you can and cannot do. Taking cases that are too difficult for your skill set can make you a bad attorney before you even begin working on the case. You may be the man (or woman) to call for DUI defense, but if you have never probated an easy case, you probably do not want to take on the task of defending a Personal Representative or heir in probate Court. Know your limits and refer cases to other attorneys when they sound like they may be outside of them.
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    Find a good paralegal. You may already have someone who answers your phones and drafts common pleading, but what you need is a paralegal, who can formulate responses to adversary pleadings, determine the best course of action and set it in motion, use independent judgment to develop defenses, and find the right cases to support your client’s arguments. Some places you can look for a good paralegal include:
    • Paralegal associations. Active participants in paralegal associations are usually independent, motivated, and intelligent. Contact a board member or attend a function and network.
    • Freelance paralegal websites. Many highly motivated and very skilled paralegals are working as freelance contractors, offering ‘virtual’ services that can save you hundreds. Run a search at your favorite search engine to locate some freelance paralegals’ websites.
    • Social media. Use your social media accounts, especially LinkedIn, to network with paralegals and other attorneys. Watch for paralegals that publish articles, comment on others articles, and interact with everyone.
    • Your state or local bar association. If your state or local bar associations allow paralegals to join, network with paralegal members.
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    Set aside time to talk on the phone. Many attorneys are inundated with phone calls, voicemails, and messages. Everyone wants you on the phone, but you rarely have time to return a phone call. So set aside some time each day to make and return calls. When you take the time to talk to your clients, it makes them feel like you care, and that is a large part of what will make you a good attorney – being able to make every client feel as if you care about them and their case.
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    Use client files. You have an entire file on each client, and you should be using it. Before returning a call or sitting down for a meeting, review the client’s file to ensure that you remember the details. When reviewing the file, look for:
    • The client’s family members names.
    • The last conversation you had with the client. Make sure you know what you discussed with your client last time, in case it comes up.
    • The last thing that was filed in Court. Providing your clients with copies of everything that is filed with the Court can cut down on phone calls and visits, as it gives your client something to tangible, so they can see that you are working on their case.
    • The last correspondence with the State or the opposing party’s attorney. Again, giving clients copies of everything is a huge time saver and an easy way of keeping a client informed on the progress of his or her case.
    • The next scheduled deposition, meeting, or hearing. You should always know when the next time the client needs to be somewhere is and where he or she needs to be.
    • A summary of the facts of the case. [1]It is a good idea to type one up as soon as the client hires you and attach it to the front or back cover of the file. This way, if you approach opposing counsel to discuss the case, you’ll be able to remind them what happened; remember, they have 100’s of cases too
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    Keep some perspective. [2] If you are a criminal defense attorney, most of your clients are guilty. Your job is not to believe every word your client says; it is to make sure that none of his or her civil rights are violated, and he or she gets the best deal possible.
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    Learn to control your clients. Like the old saying goes, “the practice of law would be much easier without clients to muck it up.” Your clients are going to do things to mess up their cases, and it is your job to anticipate and then prevent behavior that could be detrimental to a client’s case. The best way to do this is to give your client as much information as possible, in a format and language that they can understand. [3] You can be proactive in providing clients with information by maintaining a blog, creating a YouTube channel, and using social media. People run to the internet when they have a question, people who may be future clients, so get out there and spread around as much good information as possible, so clients come to you already well informed about the law that applies to their case.
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    Maintain your credibility. Because a large part of a defense attorney’s job is negotiating with other attorneys, a good reputation can be invaluable. If you have a reputation for honesty, you will be able to negotiate much better deals for your clients who really deserve it. [4] So, be straight with other lawyers and always try to play fair.
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    Focus on client service. While you cannot take the “client is always right” stand that some fast food and retail outlets take, you can provide good quality client service. While opinions differ vastly on how exactly to provide good quality client service, most lawyers agree that communication is top priority when dealing with clients. Some even recommend that you over-communicate with your clients. That may not really be necessary, but do return all phone calls, personally, provide clients with copies of everything you receive regarding their case, and make sure you keep in touch regularly.
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    Always be prepared. The boy scouts had it right; the key to success is to always be prepared. When you go into Court to fight for your client, you need to know exactly how to persuade the jury that your client is innocent. Some things you can do to help accomplish this goal:
    • Prepare your witnesses. Talk to your witnesses about the questions you will ask them on the stand and how they will answer. You may even want to prepare a list of questions that you will ask of them, and provide them with a copy.
    • Prepare your evidence. Have everything you intend to submit as evidence certified, copied, stapled, and ready to go.
    • Prepare your client. Go over the clients testimony, what questions you will ask, how they will answer, and practice asking them questions as if they were on the witness stand. Be sure to prepare them for the questions that the state or the opposing party’s attorney will ask them.

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Categories: Legal Careers