Five years ago, my advice to a brand new lawyer wanting to build a criminal defense practice would have been very different. I would have said to focus on getting an indigent defense contract above all else. I would have discussed what was available, from flat monthly rate city and tribal contracts to flat per-case rate county felony contracts and hourly federal criminal defense panels. Now, although I still highly recommend the steady income and valuable experience of contract work to anyone wanting to start doing criminal defense, getting that work is not nearly as realistic in today’s economy. There is no harm in applying, but the ever-increasing number of desperate, experienced lawyers fighting for a shrinking number of available contracts makes relying on contract work pretty unrealistic for a new lawyer.
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