Here and there I will talk to a prospective client who wants to discharge their Public Defender and hire private counsel. I believe that there is a lot of misconception, misunderstanding, and frankly unfair assumptions about Public Defenders. Before I start, I want to be upfront that I have been a full-time Public Defender, and I currently work as a part-time Public Defender for most of my hours.
Public Defenders *are* "real lawyers."
A Public Defender is a real lawyer, just like any lawyer you may consult with from private practice. We went to law school. We took the BAR Exam. We passed the BAR Exam. We underwent a rigorous background check process. We were sworn in. Our Bar licenses are real.
Public Defenders get a lot of trial and litigation experience.
One of the benefits of being a Public Defender part-time is that it keeps my litigation and trial experience sharp. We get assigned a heavy caseload. Part of the job requires triaging cases, and that comes with experience. We learn how to issue spot. We learn what issues are worth fighting, and we learn what issues are a waste of everyone's time. There is plenty to litigate, and there are plenty of cases worth taking to trial. Regularly litigating keeps us sharp. That is a valuable asset that I use in service of my paying clients.
Public Defenders are stretched for time.
When I get a prospective client who feels like they want to discharge their Public Defender, I let them know that one of the primary benefits they get from private counsel is time. Think of it this way:
- I am contracted out to work roughly 25-30 hours a week for the Public Defenders Office. I typically have a caseload in the triple digits (as in, over 100 files), spread out over more than 60 clients at a given time. That equates to no more than a half hour a week per client. If I were to split my time evenly between every file, that would account for no more than 15 to 20 minutes a week per file.
- If I spend another 10-15 hours a week working on paid clients, and I limit my paid-client case-load to 10-15 at any given time, now we are talking at least an hour per week per client. Now, I can limit my paid-client case-load even further, in order to dedicate even more time per week to these files.
As you can see, the primary benefit here is time. Whether a client comes to me through court-appointment versus paying me a sum of cash, they are getting the same lawyer. However, the natural constraints of the system are such that paying clients get more hands-on time from me. This may not sound fair, but it is what it is.
Public Defenders know the County/District they work in very well.
As a Public Defender with a caseload specifically out of one State County, and one County Courthouse, I know how things operate much better there than other counties. If someone calls me from a county I do not practice in often, I come in as an outsider. If you have a Public Defender, chances are that he or she will know the prosecutors, Judges, local practices, and local customs much better than I will. Subsequently, if a Public Defender client of mine fires me for a different lawyer in a different county, that lawyer may not know the local Judges and system as well as I do.
In summary, think long and hard about firing your Public Defender.
If you want to discharge your Public Defender, and hire The Law Office of Brandon Lauer, that is within your freedom to do so. If you have the money, and you want to hire, I will happily discuss a fee arrangement with you. I will fight your case for you. I will take all the skills I have developed as a Public Defender and put them to work on your case. Just do not do so based on a misconception, misunderstanding, or unfair caricature about what a Public Defender is or does. And yes, I say this *as* a part-time Public Defender who happens to also do private practice work.
In the interests of expectation management, please know that paying me a large sum of money is not a magic ticket. It does not give me magical powers. I cannot pull a rabbit out of my hat at the drop of a credit card. However, I can give you my time, my skills, and my passion. If that is what you want, then feel free to discharge your Public Defender. Just take a moment to think your decision through before scrounging up the money.
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