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Legal issues in the military justice system can be complex and critical. Whether facing non-judicial punishment (NJP), court-martial proceedings or administrative actions, the expertise of a high-quality military lawyer is invaluable. Here’s a detailed look at the costs involved in hiring one.

Factors Affecting Military Lawyer Costs

  1. Type of Case: Costs vary based on the complexity and severity of the legal matter, from routine administrative issues to complex court-martial defenses.
  2. Experience Levels: Fees can differ significantly depending on the lawyer’s experience and specialization in military law.
  3. Geographic Location: Travel fees may be necessary if the lawyer must travel to investigate the case or appear in court or at a board. Such fees will depend on the geographic location.
  4. Scope of Services: The amount of time and effort required, including preparation, research, and court appearances, directly influences costs. This is why costs for a court martial are much higher than costs for an NJP. 

Types of Legal Fees

  1. Hourly Rates: Typically range from $150 to over $500 per hour, based on the lawyer’s experience and the complexity of the case. However, most military lawyers do not charge hourly rates.
  2. Flat Fees: Most military lawyers offer fixed rates for specific services like court-martial representation or administrative separations. These are called “flat fees” and the overall cost is usually much lower than it would be if charged hourly. For example, on average flat fees for high quality court martial representation range between $40,000 and $100,000 – but may be lower or higher depending on the individual case. Because so much work goes into a court martial defense, if charged hourly, most cases would amount to at least double the average flat fee. With a flat fee, you also do not need to worry about lawyers finding ways to bill hours to rack up a higher fee. Therefore, flat fees tend to be most advantageous for the client. 

Since less work is normally required for other services, such as NJP or administrative separations, the flat fees for these services will likely be much lower (however, there are some very complex administrative proceedings that will rival the rates of a court martial). 

  1. Retainers: Commonly used, where clients pay the flat fee upfront. In some cases, a retainer of some of the flat fee may be paid, and a payment plan can be arranged for the remainder. 

Additional Considerations

  1. Legal Assistance vs. Private Counsel: While military legal offices offer free services, such lawyers may not have the necessary experience or desire to obtain the best possible result. Some are just filling a temporary assignment. At the Law Office of David S. Hendrickson, we dedicate our careers to the representation of military members, have a long track record of success, provide personalized attention, and unwavering dedication to obtaining the best possible result.
  2. Cost-Benefit Analysis: Balancing legal costs against potential career and personal consequences is crucial.
    • Criminal Record/Confinement: If facing a court-martial, at a minimum you are facing a federal conviction and punitive discharge (Bad Conduct Discharge or Dishonorable Discharge), and confinement in a military prison. A finding of guilt will result in a federal criminal record that will follow you for the rest of your life and prejudice your ability to obtain employment. 
    • Sex Offender Registration: If found guilty of a sex offense at court martial, you will be required to register as a sex offender in your state. This will impose significant restrictions and prejudice on your life after being released from confinement.
    • Money and Benefits: A conviction will result in rank reduction, forfeiture of pay, and most importantly, the loss of military benefits. The loss of benefits includes the loss of retirement, military housing, medical benefits (with or without retirement), enlistment/re-enlistment bonus recoupment, and military education cost recoupment. 
    • Savings: The cost of preserving your freedom, dignity, and reputation is invaluable. This cannot be calculated in terms of money. However, the overall value of potential pay and benefits lost for most cases can be calculated to well over $1,000,000. We have represented clients where the value has reached over $3,000,000. By comparison, the cost of hiring an experienced, high-quality civilian lawyer for court martial or administrative separation is low. 

Conclusion

Understanding the costs of what is at stake is imperative to understanding the cost of hiring a good lawyer. At first you may think that you cannot afford it. Some clients take loans, sell property, ask for family assistance, and/or fundraise via various means – but find a way. When considering what is at stake, you may not be able to afford not to hire a high quality, experienced military lawyer.  Take charge and contact us now for a free evaluation of your case.