When you are paying a professional to represent you, you deserve the best from them. However, it is worth pointing out that, at times, there will be factors outside of your criminal defence lawyer’s control which may affect your matter. The following is a guide to what to expect from your criminal defence lawyer.
- The Court is the Boss
You deserve a criminal defence lawyer who is prepared, diligent, has made all relevant enquiries and who is experienced. If you have a concern about the lawyer you have engaged, either speak with their Principal or shop around. You can find our guide to choosing a criminal defence lawyer here. However, a criminal defence lawyer’s first obligation is to the Court. We can’t mislead the Court and we have to work within the processes of the Court. That means that if the Court tells us to do something, or not to do something, we listen. This can be frustrating to clients, particularly if this is their first experience with the criminal law. Just remember, we are lawyers not magicians.
- Conflicts of interest
Your criminal defence lawyer must tell you as soon as they are aware that a conflict of interest may exist in your case. A conflict of interest emerges where a lawyer forms the view that they cannot continue to represent you because their obligation to you may conflict with another interest, such as the interests of a former client, an interest personal to the lawyer or a conflict with respect to instructions you have previously given. Even the appearance of a conflict is enough for any competent and ethical criminal defence lawyer to announce a conflict. If your criminal defence lawyer tells you that they have a conflict and can no longer act, you will be disappointed and frustrated. You may have incurred legal fees, which you cannot get back. However, in these circumstances, ceasing to act and referring you to another competent criminal defence lawyer is the most ethical thing to do and avoids a disaster down the track for yourself and your lawyer. What your lawyer must do is tell you as soon as the conflict arises, refer you to another lawyer and ensure that your file is immediately transferred in an organized manner, so that your new lawyer can get to work!
- We don’t control the Police case
Criminal defence lawyers deal with the evidence before them. A Police investigation doesn’t conclude until a matter finalizes in Court. That means that you can be served with new evidence at any time and there is not a thing your lawyer can do about it apart from complain to the Court, argue about the admissibility of the evidence and cross-examine the Police about where it came from. Whilst we can control our defence, we can’t control your prosecution. Remember that!
- Available / Unavailable
Sometimes, a client’s matter will be affected by the availability of others., it is the barrister that the client has briefed becoming unavailable. Sometimes, it is the Court which cannot commence a trial due to a shortage of judges. Sometimes, it is an expert who cannot give evidence. Most of the time, if you are represented by a competent criminal defence lawyer, this is avoidable. However, sometimes life just has a way of throwing a curve ball. What you can expect is that issues of availability are ironed out as much as possible, in advance as possible.
- Estimating Costs
Your lawyer must provide you with an estimate of costs as early in the proceedings as possible. The estimate will be based on what the lawyer believes will be required in your case and should be as itemized as possible. This comes down to experience and an analysis of the case presented. However, we can’t estimate for the unexpected. There are several ways that the estimate of costs might be exceeded, without your criminal defence lawyer doing anything wrong. For example, the Court may estimate that a trial will take two weeks instead of one. Or, additional evidence might be served which your lawyer needs to consider. Or, we may need to retain an expert to give evidence on your behalf, which wasn’t required previously. What you can expect from your lawyer is that, as soon as they become aware that the estimate will be exceeded, they tell you and work with you.
- We have lives too
It is thankfully rare that we, at Galbally Parker Lawyers, face this problem. Sometimes, however, we have to remind clients that we have lives too and that we won’t be accessible all of the time. Most clients understand that they can’t call you on a weekend, expect to reach you whilst on leave, or request that you cancel prior engagements to fit them in. Now, that doesn’t mean that you should ever be left in the lurch or without proper communication. If your criminal defence lawyer is going on leave for more than a day or so, you should be advised. You should also have an alternative contact within the office. However, if you have been given enough notice of your lawyer’s trip to Bali, don’t expect to discuss your matter poolside via Zoom !
- Mistakes do happen. Avoidable mistakes should not.
We would love to tell you that all criminal defence lawyers are perfect. However, mistakes can happen. However, avoidable mistakes should not. If your lawyer has proper systems in place, avoidable mistakes will not occur. Your lawyer should not forget about a due date or send correspondence to the wrong address. However, your lawyer may forget to return your call until the next day because they were in Court all day. Knowing the difference between avoidable and unavoidable mistakes is key to having confidence in your legal representative.
If you are looking for a criminal defence lawyer, please go to our guide to choosing the best criminal defence lawyer for you or contact us to speak with one of our excellent criminal defence lawyers.