General Standards For Representation In All Criminal,
Delinquency, Dependency And Civil Commitment Cases

Prerequisites For Representation

Counsel shall only accept an appointment or retainer if counsel is able to provide quality representation and diligent advocacy for the client.


1. Counsel should be proficient in applicable substantive and procedural law and stay current with changes in constitutional, statutory, evidentiary law and local or statewide court rules.

2. Counsel should have appropriate experience, skills and training.

a. Counsel should obtain formal and informal training in the relevant areas of practice and should consult with others in the field, including non-attorneys.

b. Less experienced counsel should observe and when possible serve as co-counsel to more experienced attorneys. More experienced counsel should mentor less experienced attorneys.

3. Counsel should have adequate time and resources.

a. Counsel should not accept caseloads that by reason of excessive size and/or complexity interfere with the provision of quality representation.

b. Counsel should have access to sufficient support services and physical resources to allow for quality representation.

4. Counsel appointed by a court to represent a client at government expense shall meet and certify compliance with the 'Qualification Standards for Court-Appointed Counsel to Represent Indigent Persons at State Expense', promulgated by the State Court Administrator.

General Duties And Responsibilities Of Counsel To Clients; Avoiding Conflict Of Interests

Upon being retained or appointed by the court, counsel should contact the client as soon as practicable AND maintain regular contact thereafter. Counsel should endeavor to establish a relationship of trust and open communication with the client and should diligently advocate the client's position within the bounds of the law and the Rules of Professional Responsibility.


1. As soon as practicable after being retained or appointed, counsel should contact the client and conduct an initial client interview.

2. Counsel should ensure that barriers to communication with the client, such as differences in language or literacy, are overcome. Counsel should make accommodations where necessary due to a client's special circumstances, such as youth, mental or physical disability, or foreign language barrier, including assuring that counsel has sufficient additional time and resources to make those accommodations.

3. Counsel should maintain regular contact with the client and should keep the client informed of the progress of the case, including:

a. the importance of maintaining contact with counsel and the need to notify counsel of any change of address;

b. the names and contact information regarding counsel and staff assisting with the case; and

c. any court dates and significant developments in the case.

4. Counsel should not delegate tasks to others if to do so would compromise the effectiveness of the representation. Counsel should not delegate non-ministerial and non-routine court appearances to other counsel without the consent of the client.

5. Counsel should be alert to all potential and actual conflicts of interest. If counsel identifies an actual conflict of interest, counsel should immediately request permission from the court to withdraw and substitution of qualified counsel. If counsel identifies a potential or likely conflict of interest, counsel should fully disclose the conflict to all affected clients and, if appropriate, obtain informed consent to proceed on behalf of those clients.

6. Counsel should preserve client confidences and secrets and should not knowingly disclose confidential information obtained during the course of representation, unless authorized to do so by the client or the court or as otherwise permitted by law or the Rules of Professional Responsibility.

Role Of Counsel

Counsel should seek the lawful objectives of the client and should not substitute counsel's judgment for that of the client in those case decisions that are the responsibility of the client.


1. Counsel is ordinarily bound by the client's definition of his or her interests and should not substitute counsel's judgment for that of the client regarding the objectives of the representation.

2. Counsel should advise the client regarding the probable success and consequences of adopting any posture in the proceedings and give the client the information necessary to make an informed decision. Counsel should consult with the client regarding the assertion or waiver of any right or position of the client.

3. Counsel should consult with the client as to the strategy and means by which the client's objectives are to be pursued and exercise his or her professional judgment concerning technical and legal tactical issues involved in the representation.

Initial Client Interview

Counsel should conduct a client interview as soon as practicable after being retained or appointed by the court, in order to obtain information necessary to provide quality representation at the early stages of the case and to provide the client with information concerning counsel's representation and the case proceedings.


1. To the extent possible, counsel should prepare for an initial interview with the client by reviewing petitions and/or charging documents, police and other investigative agency reports, and the reports of pretrial detention agencies, where applicable.

2. Counsel should conduct the initial interview with the client as soon as practicable and sufficiently before any court proceeding so as to be prepared for that proceeding. In instances where the client is detained or in custody, counsel should make every effort to conduct an initial interview within 48 hours of acceptance of a retainer or court appointment.

3. At the initial interview, counsel should obtain the following types of information from the client:

a. the facts surrounding the allegations against or affecting the client;

b. any possible witnesses who should be located;

c. any evidence of improper conduct by police or other investigative agencies, juvenile or mental health departments or the prosecution which may affect the client's rights;

d. any evidence that should be preserved; and

e. evidence of the client's competence to stand trial and/or mental state at the time of the offense.

4. Counsel should convey the following types of information to the client:

a. the nature of the allegations, what the state must prove, and the likely and maximum potential consequences;

b. the role of counsel and the defense function;

c. an explanation of the attorney-client privilege and instructions not to talk to anyone about the facts of the case without first consulting with the attorney;

d. a general procedural overview of the likely progression of the case;

e. the procedures that will be followed in setting the conditions of pretrial release, if applicable to the type of proceeding and the particular client;

f. an explanation of the type of information that will likely be requested in any interview that may be conducted by pretrial release, juvenile court counselors, children's services personnel, or civil commitment investigators or doctors and what information the client should and should not provide;

g. how and when counsel can be reached;

h. when counsel will see the client next;

i. realistic answers, where possible, to the client's most urgent questions; and

j. what arrangements will be made or attempted for the satisfaction of the client's most pressing needs; e.g., medical or mental health attention, contact with family or employers.

Theory Of The Case

During investigation and trial preparation, counsel should develop and continually reassess a theory of the case.


1. Counsel should develop an overall theory of the case that encompasses the best interests of the client and the realities of the client's situation in order to assist counsel in evaluating choices throughout the course of the representation.

2. Counsel should allow the case theory to focus the investigation and trial preparation of the case, seeking out and developing the facts and evidence that the theory makes material, but counsel should not become a 'prisoner' of his or her theory.