What to look for in a Military LawyerNovember 4, 2019
Servicemembers are appointed a JAG to represent them if they are facing a military legal action. However, they have the option to hire a civilian lawyer. This article addresses what a Servicemember should look for in a military lawyer
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Experience with Military Justice
The military justice system is unique and complex. Any lawyer who is representing a Servicemember at a Court-Martial/Separation Board/other military legal action should be well versed on military law and procedure. Civilian law experience, while valuable, is not adequate to effectively represent a Servicemember at a military proceeding. A Servicemember should want a lawyer who has represented numerous military clients before so they don’t make critical mistakes
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Experience in the Military
Any Servicemember will tell you that military culture is very different from civilian culture. A Servicemember should want a lawyer who understands military culture. A lawyer cannot adequately represent a client if he/she does not understand the climate of the alleged crime itself and the jurors he/she is presenting a case to. Servicemembers should take caution before hiring a civilian lawyer who has no military service in their background.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Previous Results
No lawyer can guarantee any results and a Servicemember should take caution if one does. However, most lawyers allow their prospective clients to review their previous cases. A Servicemember should look at a lawyer’s previous experience and specific results before hiring anyone. A lawyer with a track record of acquittals or significant victories is likely to be a high-quality lawyer.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Location
Most military lawyers will travel anywhere around the world to represent their clients; however, it is the industry norm for the Servicemember to pay for this. These travel fees are in addition to the amount quoted for representation. If a Servicemember hires a lawyer that is closer to them, it will cut down on travel costs. Of course, this shouldn’t prevent a Servicemember from hiring a lawyer who they really want; it is just one factor to consider.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Cost
This is somewhat obvious, but a Servicemember should consider the cost of a lawyer before hiring him/her. It may be true that a more expensive lawyer is better; but this is not always the case. There are some that are overpriced and others that are underpriced. Servicemembers need to look at all other factors, including the price, before deciding who they hire.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Focus of Law Practice
The law is ever-changing. It is called “practicing” law because lawyers should always be learning. Law firms are moving more and more towards specializing in one area of law. If the focus of a law practice is on one area, that firm is likely to know it very well. If a law firm practices multiple areas, its focus could be too broad to truly be effective. Servicemembers should closely examine the focus of a law practice before hiring a lawyer.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Academic and Legal Background
Past success is the best indicator for future success. A lot can be learned from someone’s academic and legal background. Before hiring a civilian lawyer, look at their background. Is it impressive? Again, this should not be viewed in a vacuum, but just as one of the many factors.
What to look for in a Military Lawyer: Caseload
Servicemembers should want their military lawyer to have a small caseload. This allows him/her to pay the appropriate amount of attention to each case. A classic problem with many lawyers is that they take on too many cases and can’t do a good job on all of them. They are simply limited in their time and abilities. A Servicemember should ask a prospective lawyer how many cases they currently have. This will give a good indication of how much time he/she has to apply towards their case.
This article was written by Attorney Matthew Barry
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