Hiring an attorney checklist

Questions to Ask Before Hiring a Civilian Military Lawyer

These are a sample of questions to ask before hiring a civilian military lawyer.

  1. Have you ever been on active duty in the military yourself?
    1. Reserves are very different than active duty so it is important to ask whether the civilian military lawyer you are considering hiring has ever been on active duty.
  2. Were you an active duty JAG?
    1. Being in a different job in the military does not give the lawyer the needed military legal experience.
  3. What branch?
    1. The Army is the biggest branch and tries the most cases.
    2. If the military attorney you are speaking to has experience in a smaller branch, there is a good chance they did not have the opportunity too try many cases and you might want to consider continuing your search.
  4. For how long?
    1. If the military lawyer was in for 4 years or less, then he or she may not have the right kind of military law experience because those types of jobs typically begin after your third or fourth year. 
  5. What jobs did you do?
    1. You are looking for trial counsel, defense counsel, appellate attorney, or military judge.
  6. How long ago?
    1. If he or she is fresh out of the JAG Corps, then they will have less experience than a military lawyer who was on active duty and has been practicing as a civilian military lawyer for a good number of years
  7. What percentage of your civilian practice is devoted to military law?
    1. This should be either 100% or very close to 100%. Civilian military lawyers who practice in state court as well simply do not have the time or energy needed to devote to military expertise.
  8. How many contested trials have you done?
    1. This question is very important as many civilian military lawyers who hold themselves out as military experts have done less than a dozen contested panel cases. Instead, they have their clients plead guilty most of the time. Verify the lawyers answer by doing your own research and looking at a sample of their results
  9. How recently have you litigated a contested panel trial?
    1. The law is continually changing, especially when it comes to panel cases, you need to make sure that your military lawyer has recent experience.
    2. If your lawyer has not tried a case within several months, then most likely he does not do many cases at all.
  10. How many court-martial cases do you take at the same time?
    1. You want to be sure that you are not hiring a “volume” lawyer who takes as many cases at a time as he can. It’s all about money for them at that point.
    2. The way to identify a volume lawyer is if the price seems to good to be true. Volume lawyers usually are cheaper, but don’t devote the necessary time to each case.
  11. Can I hear a sample of you speaking in court?
    1. Your lawyer should have records of trial on hand or online for you to listen to so you can hear how they speak in court.
  12. Have you ever done military appeals?
    1. Many military trial lawyers have never done appeals and this puts you at a serious disadvantage when they are trying your case because they are not thinking about preserving the record in case you have to appeal.
  13. What JAG attorneys have you worked with recently?
    1. Your civilian military lawyer should know the names of TDS or DSO attorneys if they have practiced military law recently.
  14. Who from your team will be working on my case?
    1. If the attorney immediately begins talking about lawyers who are NOT part of that law firm, then that attorney is probably not experienced herself and you shouldn’t hire that firm.
  15. Can you give me a brief overview of the process?
    1. If the lawyer you are speaking to cannot give you an overview of the process specific to your legal matter on the spot and says, let me think about it or get back to you, he or she likely does not have the experience needed to win your case. 
  16. This is just a small sample of the questions to ask before hiring a civilian military lawyer. If you want to double check your choice, ask your free military attorney. He or she cannot recommend a civilian lawyer to you, but just watching and listening to their response should give you a decent idea about the quality of the lawyer you may be hiring.
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