Category Archives: All About Hiring An Attorney

The Eleven Principles Of Public Defense

After my recent blog post about Michigan’s public defense system, I was contacted by the Michigan Campaign for Justice.  They are spear-heading the crusade for reform in the system here.

One of the interesting aspects that we discussed revolved around the “Eleven Principles of a Public Defense Delivery System.”  These principles were adopted by the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Michigan in 2002.  They embody the goals that every Public Defense System should seek to achieve.

The Principles are:

  1. Independence
  2. State Funding and Structural Integrity
  3. Eligibility and Early Appointment
  4. Confidentiality
  5. Availability
  6. Competency
  7. Consistency
  8. Resources
  9. Training
  10. Quality
  11. Advocacy

Sadly, Michigan’s Report Card on these topics is not a good one.  A team of national experts reviewed Michigan’s Public Defense System and graded us.  Using the standard grade-school grading system, Michigan has 5 F’s, 5 D’s, and only one C.  The “C” is in consistency.  Well, at least we’re consistent.

Over the next eleven weeks, I am going to look at each of the principles.  I’ll talk about the goal that the principle embodies, how our current system works, and then talk about how the system needs to change to get our state a passing grade.

Feel free to share your stories and how you would rate your experience with the Public Defense System!

If you are seeking legal representation contact Ambrose Law Group at 248-624-5500 or visit our website at


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Our Voice: Michigan Finally Considering a Public Defender Facelift

Recently, the Detroit Free Press posted an interesting article about the call to upgrade Michigan’s woefully inadequate public defense system.  You can read the full article here

Most public defenders in Michigan are appointed by the Courts.  Some lawyers make a career of going from Court to Court and getting on “lists” for the Courts to appoint them to cases.  They get paid an hourly rate that varies, but there are always limits.  From working at the Court of Appeals, my experience was that the attorneys charged the maximum amounts they could and then just did as little work as possible.

I haven’t taken an appointed case, so I don’t have that experience.  While I do offer pro bono representation to clients in need who I believe are innocent, I’ve never been attracted to the idea of doing what feels like “begging for scraps” in going around and asking a judge to “pretty please” hand me a case that I can work on as a public defender.

There is no shortage of attorneys who do jockey and position themselves to get appointed cases, though.  And that’s why I hope that whatever decision is made will include more than just throwing more money at the problem.

I think we need a “checks and balances” system for the quality of representation that the publicly defended are receiving.  If the State is going to spend money to defend someone, we should be sure that the money is going to actually defending them.

Other states have this in line, and the article in the Detroit Free Press seems to indicate that Michigan might be heading that way.  There needs to be accountability.  When a case is handed to a defender under the current system, there is no one watching to ensure that the attorney actually does a good job.  Did the attorney research to see if there were any Constitutional violations?  Did the attorney make the prosecutor hand over the 911 tapes, in-car videos, and all of the documents and witness statements?  Too often, the answer to these questions is no.

Without accountability, no amount of money is going to fix the problem.  If we’re going to spend more, we need to make sure that a true public defender’s office is put together, with teams to supervise and review the work conducted in the office.

I’ve met public defenders from California, Colorado, and Louisiana at seminars that I’ve attended around the Country.  When I talk to them about their cases, I can see that they invest the same amount of time and energy into their cases that I do into mine.  They care about their clients and have one goal:  justice.  They fight.  They struggle.  They win.

I’d love to be able to say the same thing about Michigan.  Hopefully, some day I will be able to.

Read more of our thoughts on choosing an attorney or public defender here

Have you had a good or bad experience with a public defender? Or just a lawyer in general?

If you are seeking legal representation for your criminal charge contact Ambrose Law Group at 248-624-5500 or visit our website


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Our Voice: Thoughts On Choosing An Attorney

This past Monday night after I got home from work, I decided to kick back and watch a little football.  Inevitably, the game went to commercial and lo and behold, the first ad I saw was for a lawfirm.  I won’t mention any names, of course, but the small firm, and there is nothing at all wrong with a small firm, was one that I have some personal knowledge of.  I know that the lawyer in the ad has recently been evicted from his condo because he couldn’t make the payments; I also know that he is a young lawyer with very little experience, but here he was presenting himself on television as a successful attorney that anyone would want to have represent them.

I asked myself, how can the regular joe on the street know anything about the attorney they are hiring, that they are placing their trust in?  The simple and quick answer is to ask questions… questions about experience, about training, about past client referrals… but will these questions be answered honestly? The answer, I hope, is yes. But too few times these questions are not asked at all.  So often it seems that potential clients are shopping for an attorney based solely on price. This is not a good idea at all.  If an attorney is willing to reduce their fees, just for you, what does that tell you about their practice?  I am not suggesting that you pay exorbitant fees, or that more expensive lawyers are better, but I am suggesting that there is a standard fee in the community, and an attorney who is significantly below that standard is probably in dire need of business, and perhaps not your best option for representation.

If you are facing difficult issues like criminal charges, a pending divorce or child custody issue, or you have been injured… you need to find a good lawyer to help you out, one who knows what to do, one who can mentor you and shepherd you through the legal maze that is our court system.  But who should you trust? Like so many things these days, the answer is: caveat emptor, or buyer beware.  It is up to you, the client, to ask the important questions… maybe not the best answer, but it is the right one.  A television ad is not evidence that an attorney knows the law, or even that they are very successful or good at what they do… that much is obvious.

Ambrose Law Group

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Pros and Cons of a Court-Appointed Attorney

How can people with limited income find good legal representation?  What are the pros and cons of a court-appointed attorney? What can we offer you that another attorney can’t?

If you have limited income and find yourself in court on criminal charges, you will be facing a tough decision.  Do I take the risk of a court appointed attorney to save money or do I retain traditional counsel?  Here are the pros and cons of court-appointed attorneys.

Court-appointed attorneys cover both public defenders and attorneys appointed by the court in instances when there is a conflict of interest with the public defender office or no public defenders are available.  These court appointed attorneys come in two basic types.

The first type of court appointed attorney is there by choice.  They wake up every morning with one goal: protect the rights of those who are in need.  If you get one of these attorneys and they specialize in your type of criminal law, you will be in great hands.  This attorney will fight for your rights with passion and zeal.  However, due to the high case load of the clients per public defender, your individual focus is capped at that court appointed attorney’s available time.  This limited time could be the success/failure factor in your case.  At Ambrose Law Group, you have a group of attorneys with time that will work on your case.

The second type of court appointed attorney are attorneys and law students who need experience.  This is because law school is not lawyer school.  Your attorney might be a student or brand new attorney standing up in court for the first time.  He may have never heard of a personal bond or know the formalities of the courtroom.  He is also probably more scared than you are.

There is one fundamental difference between law school and other professional schools.  There are fewer clinics and courses offered in law school to teach lawyers how to PERFORM a service for you.  You don’t learn to be a trial-laywer in law school. We, as lawyers, can read any case and tell you exactly what it means.  This does not mean that we know how to provide you with the court experience that you need.  This requires years of a mentor-mentee relationship or years of trial & error to develop.  At Ambrose Law Group, all of our experienced attorneys act as mentors to our new attorneys.   This is how Ambrose Law Group builds trial lawyers that provide exceptional service to each client.

The final decision is up to you.  You can take a risk with a court-appointed attorney and get a great lawyer with a light work load. This gamble could pay off in your favor with good results at little cost to you.  However, your gamble could land you in jail/prison with heavy fines and few answers.  You could also find yourself with a heavily compromised future or no future at all.

This is your life.  When you think of all of the work you’ve done, a risk is rarely worth the reward.  You owe it to yourself to retain counsel that can help you get on your feet and get back to contributing positively to society.

Have Questions? We have free consultations.  Call us at (248) 624-5500

If you would like to see our trial skills in action visit our website and watch video of Dan Ambrose

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