You get a free lawyer from the military, so have a good reason for spending your own money on one. One good reason is that sometimes the military won’t give you one until you’ve been charged. But know that there are many excellent JAGs, and a lot of military cases can be handled without help from a civilian lawyer. Ask a civilian lawyer what he does that a JAG can’t do, or can’t be expected to do as well.
An appointed, free lawyer
- Learned from the same books and passed the same tests as civilian attorneys.
- Got much of the same training as civilian attorneys.
- Will be loyal to you first, not the military.
A civilian, hired military lawyer
- Has more trial experience.
- Has been around longer and has more life experience.
- Isn’t dependent on the military for anything.
A civilian lawyer asking to be hired for a military case should have a strong military background and project an appearance suitable for a military environment.
Shop around. Civilian military law firms offer free consultations. Take them up on it. Call a number of firms, read their websites, check
- Their reputation.
- Their professional qualifications and ratings.
- Their military background and trial experience.
Pay close attention to how the attorney talks. Get a feel for what kind of person you’re dealing with.
- Does he talk like a real person or like a lawyer?
- Does he seem creative and confident or cocky and conceited?
- Does he acknowledge other attorneys or cut them down?
Finally, know what you’re getting into financially.
- Well-established firms charge similar fees.
- Most of us work on flat fees instead of hourly rates.
- We all require some money up-front but that amount varies.