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National College-Mercer Criminal Defense Survey: Some Preliminary Observations About Interviewing, Counseling, and Plea Negotiations

NCJ Number
Mercer Law Review Volume: 37 Issue: 3 Dated: (Spring 1986) Pages: 1019-1031
R L Doyel
Date Published
13 pages
This 1985 survey examined the defense lawyer's role as interviewer, counselor, and negotiator in questionnaire data from 50 lawyers from 21 States.
Results show that defense lawyers interview and counsel their clients in nearly every case, and they prepare their clients for court appearance (a form of counseling) nearly as often. More than half those surveyed negotiated with the prosecutor in 90 to 100 percent of their cases; nearly all others negotiated in 60 to 90 percent of their cases at the pretrial phase. On ratings of the relative importance of various skills to an effective pretrial defense, interviewing, counseling, and negotiating were given high scores. However, the ability to negotiate, although used the least frequently of the three skills, was rated as the most critical. Respondents rated the ability to establish rapport with the client as more important than ability to get along with judge or prosecutor. Despite the importance of prosecution evidence in plea negotiations, fully half of the lawyers did not conduct a thorough investigation, do legal research, or develop a theory of defense prior to negotiation. Knowledge of sentencing alternatives, ability to negotiate with the prosecutor, and knowledge of statutory punishment requirements were viewed as most important in plea negotiation. 7 tables and 53 footnotes.