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NCJRS Abstract

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NCJ Number: 83125 Find in a Library
Title: Public Defender Offices (From Working With Legal Assistants - A Team Approach for Lawyers and Legal Assistants, Volume 2, P 731-755, 1981, Paul G Ulrich and Robert S Mucklestone, ed.)
Author(s): J D Hennings
Date Published: 1981
Page Count: 25
Sponsoring Agency: American Bar Association
Sale Source: American Bar Association
United States of America
Language: English
Country: United States of America
Annotation: This paper describes how a medium-sized public defender law office can use a team of legal assistants to permit the effective handling of a large caseload and heavy trial practice.
Abstract: In a public defender office, an assistant can provide crisis counseling to clients, prepare sentencing reports, handle file preparation, and perform fact investigation. Many client services require only lawyer review and supervision. An assistant should work independently while under the supervision of a lawyer. A chief legal assistant trains assistants and monitors their working relationships with the lawyers to ensure that the teams function effectively. Each lawyer is assigned one or more assistants. The team receives support from a secretarial pool for typing, reception, telephones, and docketing. An executive group provides office management, fiscal control, budgeting, and policy decisions. Each team consists of a lawyer, a trial assistant, and an investigator. Assistants can play a major role during the initial contact in the courtroom, at the initial interview, during case preparation and management, and during the exploration of sentencing alternatives. Assistances may also be involved in matters such as probation violations, parole revocation, and fugitives. Assistants can also have specific responsibilities in misdemeanor cases, traffic cases, and civil commitment cases. Outreach assistants provide current information about community resources to arrange alternatives to incarceration for clients. Investigators are often older persons with 'street knowledge' and prior contact with client groups served by the defender office. Most of their work is done alone on the street, where they perform fact-finding and information-gathering tasks for the defense teams. An investigator should have communication skills, a defense orientation, team skills, and relevant life experience. Forms for use in client interviews and other situations are attached.
Index Term(s): Paralegals; Public defenders
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