Ask a JAG: Hiring your own attorney

By Capt. Matthew N. Karchaske
Judge Advocate, U.S. Army
Chief of Client Services at the Stuttgart Legal Center

Q:  I went to Legal Assistance last week, and they told me they can’t help me! They said my problem is “outside the scope,” and told me to hire an attorney on the economy. Can they do that?

A:  Yes. Yes we can. For a number of reasons, Army Regulations create limits on the type of representation we can provide – and on the types of cases we can assist with. Usually, this is due to the complexity (and time required) or the need for in-court representation.

But don’t worry, we have a few tips to help you make the best of a bad situation.

First, any attorney you hire works for you. Interview the person–interview a few. Make sure both you and the attorney understand what you expect out of the arrangement. Don’t feel pressured into hiring someone you don’t trust to do the job. And when you’ve learned not to trust them the hard way, don’t feel as though you need to continue to retain their services.

Speaking of trust, lawyers, like most people (only worse) … require a degree of supervision.  The same cleverness and tenacity that make us such an asset in your conflict can turn around and bite you if you aren’t paying attention. Thus, before hiring an attorney, search their name on the internet, and check with their state licensing agency for a history of complaints or disciplinary action.

“Trust but verify?” asks John Matlock, senior U.S. Civilian Legal Assistance Attorney on Kelley Barracks. “More like, verify­­–a lot–and then maybe think about trusting.”

Matlock says that transparency between attorney and client is key to the relationship, even if you have to force a little of that transparency.

If you have additional questions about whether you’re hiring the right attorney for your needs, contact the Legal Assistance Office on Kelley Barracks at 421-4152 or 0711-7294152.