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Frequently Asked Questions
What kinds of cases do you handle?
We handle every kind of military case involving criminal charges from the initial investigation stage through Article 32 investigation and courts-martial to appeals, if necessary. We advise for and provide legal representation in nonjudicial punishment, administrative actions, such as a medical boards, competency boards, administrative separations and boards of inquiry (BOIs) for officers.
Does a lawyer who claims to be a military attorney have to have had military experience?
There is no requirement that a lawyer has to have been in the military or be admitted to practice in military courts in order to advertise for military clients. Be sure that the attorney you hire has broad experience with the military, both in terms of life experience and legal credentials. Some attorneys may advertise that they have military experience, but that experience may not include even one minute of experience as a military JAG – check your attorney’s credentials.
Have you served in the military?
Yes. Kris Elliott served in the military (the Navy and Marine Corps) for nearly 30 years. Not only was he a Marine judge advocate, but he was an enlisted man in the Navy, an aviator in the Marine Corps and a ground combat veteran with a special operations unit in the 1st Gulf War. Many civilian attorneys offering legal representation lack significant military experience. Very few have experience in other specialties from the military other than law, and fewer still are combat veterans. Call somebody who understands what you are going through and where you have been.
Is it important to have an attorney who is close to my military installation or hometown?
When it comes to military law, geography is far less important than skill and experience. Your lawyer has to have a thorough knowledge of military law and the military mindset. He should have had a lot of experience prosecuting and defending cases in the military. Qualified military attorneys will be admitted to practice at all US military courts and installations and will have a lot of experience representing people all over the country and overseas.
Until a military case gets into the courtroom, almost all the work is done by phone, fax, and email, so your attorney will only need to be present if your case goes to court, and the attorney can fly in for that. In fact, very often the military defense attorney detailed to a case might be hundreds of miles away from his client; and so it is no different for the civilian attorney. The question is: Would you rather have a less experienced, below average attorney close to you, or a proven performer who happens to be farther away? Geography should not be a main concern.
What are your fees?
Attorneys charge fees for their services and incur assorted costs in the course of a legal action. Kris Elliott is a veteran with 28 plus years of service and knows the sacrifices that our servicemembers make everyday, not just with their time and efforts but financially. Our firm charges a reasonable rate, less than what it charges civilian clients. We always recommend a flat fee up front to cover all the fees and costs of the expected representation. It is a onetime payment prior to legal services being rendered.
What is a flat fee?
Attorneys may charge a flat fee up-front, may charge an hourly fee or in personal injury type cases, charge a contingency fee on recovered monies. In military cases, attorneys cannot charge contingency fees because they are representations in a criminal justice environment, and along with ethical concerns, do not make a lot of sense. Therefore, a military attorney can only charge flat fees or fees by the hour. An up-front flat fee is a one-time fee that pays all the attorney’s fees, and with our firm all costs to include travel, postage, phone communications, facsimile, copy costs, printing costs, and all other miscellaneous charges.
This up-front payment removes the requirement for the attorney to track time spent in the legal representation and is always a significant reduction in the total amount most clients will expect to pay for legal representation in the matter. Regardless of the arrangement, clients will have to pay a retainer for legal services that fees and costs will be billed out of over the course of the representation.
When you are looking for civilian military attorney you need to ask the following questions:
- Has your attorney served as a judge advocate in the military?
- If not, does anyone in his firm have military experience in handling military cases?
- Has the attorney who is handling your case actually litigated in a contested court-martial before a court-martial panel?
- Will your file be referred to another firm or attorney who does not have any military legal experience?