What should I do if I disagree with my lawyer’s strategy?

Lawyers and clients don’t always agree. In fact, they often butt heads over strategy. A criminal case affects no one’s life more than the client’s, but the lawyer is the one with the expertise. So, what happens when an attorney and client just can’t get on the same page?

There are certain choices that only the client can make, but final decisions on strategy are generally left to the lawyer. That said, clients are supposed to have at least some say in the manner of their representation. The American Bar Association (ABA) acknowledges as much, providing a rule that says defense lawyers should :

  • make “strategic and tactical” decisions after “consultation with the client where feasible and appropriate,” and
  • make a private record of “disagreement on significant matters of tactics or strategy.” (See The Attorney-Client Privilege.)

(ABA Criminal Justice Standard 4-5.2.)

It may be tempting to fire a lawyer with whom you disagree, but make sure you don’t make that decision rashly. Getting a new lawyer is sometimes the right move, but it can be costly and can mean having an attorney who isn’t as prepared or familiar with the case (at least to start).

If your lawyer is knowledgeable and has a good reputation, and you feel like you can trust her, it might be in your interest to rely on her experience. Furthermore, firing your lawyer may not always be an option, whether because that lawyer is court-appointed or the judge won’t allow a new private attorney to substitute in. (See Can I fire my court-appointed public defender? and Can I change lawyers if I’m unhappy with the one representing me?)

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