The Client Manifesto


“Gideon” at a public defender brings us The Client Manifesto — five things that clients should require of their lawyers:

  • Has the state made any offers to me?
  • Will I get credit for my pre-sentence confinement?
  • Discuss your testimony
  • Will I be eligible for parole?
  • Have you filed my appeal?

He asks for more; here are another 5, off the top of my head:

  • How might this affect my driver’s license? Other licenses — professional and vocational? Immigration status? More and more, criminal cases have collateral legal consequences that are not foreseen by the accused. These consequences can be harsher than the direct punishment.
  • If I take this offer, what will my record show? Even aside from collateral legal consequences, a plea in a criminal case can leave a damning mark on your record that employers, landlords, and other people who do background checks will hold against you forever.
  • What are the elements of the charge against me? How is the state going to prove each element? In criminal court, what matters is not what is true, but rather what the government can prove.
  • What is the next thing you need me to do to help you defend me? Your lawyer has your future in his hands; help him help you.
  • Can I have that in writing? A lawyer should not make his clients any promises that he’s not ready to make a permanent record of.

I’m sure there’s more that Gideon and I have missed.

[edited substantially after initial post]


0 responses to “The Client Manifesto”

  1. I agree with all those that you have added, especially the last one.

    So often do clients not tell their attorneys the “full story”, leaving out witnesses, alibis and other important information.

    I couldn’t tell you the number of habeas trial transcripts that I’ve read where the client says on the stand: “well, he didn’t ask me.”

    I’m going to link back to this for your suggestions, if you don’t mind.

  2. Thanks for the comment. My edit and your comment passed in the ether; what was my last is now my next-to-last.

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