Attorney–Client Communication in Public Defense: A Qualitative Examination

Janet Moore, Vicki L. Plano Clark, Lori A. Foote, Jacinda K. Dariotis

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article presents a qualitative research approach to exploring attorney–client communication in an urban public defense system. The study drew upon procedural justice theory (PJT), which emphasizes relationships between satisfaction with system procedures and compliance with system demands. Interpretive analysis of interview data from 22 public defense clients revealed four major themes. PJT accounted well for three themes of communication time, type, and content, highlighting relationships between prompt, iterative, complete communication, and client satisfaction. The fourth theme involved clients exercising agency, often due to dissatisfaction with attorney communication. This theme was better accommodated by legal consciousness theory, which emphasizes that diverse experiences with law include manipulation and opposition alongside compliance. Implications for policy and research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)908-938
Number of pages31
JournalCriminal Justice Policy Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • client perspectives
  • communication
  • legal consciousness theory
  • procedural justice theory
  • public defense
  • qualitative research

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Law


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