But I already have a military lawyer — Do I need a civilian lawyer?
Most military defense counsels are young, dedicated, and intelligent men and women who have given themselves to the service of their country and the practice of law. They are hard working and conscientious, and seek your best interests. They are, however, subject to some significant limitations that may impact on your case:
First, they are young and inexperienced. Frequently they are in their first tour of service in the military after law school, and are in their first year of providing defense services. Like other service members, they are subject to deployment in operational billets and will likely rotate through several different jobs during their first three years. They have access to more experienced senior defense counsel or regional defense counsel, but often their access is limited by these senior officer’s personal case loads and administrative burdens.
Second, they are carrying large case loads. Especially in locations with a high volume of cases, these young attorneys are representing a large number of clients with a wide variety of problems and potential outcomes. Like many public defenders, they are required to “triage” to determine the most serious, the closest in time, and the best likely to benefit from extra time. This has a large impact on the amount of time that they can spend both preparing the case and working directly with you in answering your questions.
Third, they are limited by specific rules that control when they are permitted to form an attorney client relationship with you and begin to act as your attorney in the case. In the case of nonjudicial punishment and administrative separation counseling, they initially can only explain your rights. If you are subject to an interrogation, they can advise of your right to remain silent and encourage you not to speak, but cannot represent you further. They are not permitted to begin representation before you are put in pretrial confinement or charges are preferred against you. A civilian attorney has not such limitations.
Finally, even if you retain a civilian attorney, you also keep your military lawyer. As a member of the defense team, these young, eager, and intelligent attorneys become an important asset working with a skilled civilian practitioner to prepare and present your case.
You will never be at this point with these options again. Now is the time to act.