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As all practicing lawyers know, interviewing and counseling are at the heart of legal representation. This is what lawyers do, even criminal trial lawyers: we talk with and advise clients. Sometimes, after considering the government’s case and available defenses, we advise clients to go to trial. More often, we advise them to take a plea.

In counseling our clients we can be as “client-centered” as the next lawyer, graciously acceding to our clients’ wishes. This is especially so when the client is making what we regard to be a reasonable choice. But clients are not always reasonable. Sometimes they are inclined to do things that are not only foolhardy or ill-considered, but disastrous. When there is no question that going to trial will be to a client’s serious detriment—there will be a quick conviction followed by a harsh sentence—and the client does not seem to recognize this, good defenders usually feel they must do whatever it takes to get through to the client.

This article concerns itself with where exactly the line should be drawn by a lawyer of conscience, and whether persuasion bordering on coercion might sometimes be required in zealous criminal defense.

Publication Citation

36 Hofstra L. Rev. 479-496 (2007)