A Guide to Client Intake: Transitioning from Public Defender to Private Law Firm

Transitioning from serving as a Public Defender to working in a private law firm can be rewarding and challenging. One of the most apparent changes you'll encounter is the difference in the client intake process. Understanding these differences will help you better navigate your new professional environment and provide high-quality legal services to your clients.

years of combined
marketing experience
Creative Director Chris CarrollSenior Marketing Strategist Anthony AguileraChief Marketing Officer Joe Evans
About The Team

Client Acquisition

As a Public Defender, you were assigned clients by your state court system. However, in a private law firm, you'll need to seek out clients actively. The strategies you use to attract private cases may involve marketing your legal services through several areas, such as the following:

  • Creating a brand
  • Building a professional website
  • Providing helpful online content
  • Optimize online directories such as Avvo and Justia
  • Utilize Social media platforms
  • Advertising
  • Referrals
  • Networking

Ensuring potential clients know your expertise and the services you offer is crucial to building a successful private practice.

Client Consultation and Retainer Agreements

In your role as a Public Defender, the initial client consultation may have been brief and more so focused on gathering information about the case. In a private law firm, the initial consultation will still involve collecting case information, but it also serves as an opportunity to establish rapport and trust with the potential client. 

Establishing a solid relationship is crucial, whether you're serving as a public defender or working in a private law firm. However, as a private attorney, clients aren't assigned to you and clients will directly pay you for your legal services. Identifying shared interests and ensuring a good client-attorney fit can bolster their confidence to select you as their attorney and that their money will be well invested in the outcome of their case.

During the consultation, you'll need to discuss your fees, payment structure, and the scope of representation. If the client decides to retain your services, you must prepare a retainer agreement outlining the terms of your representation, fees, and other essential details. This legal document is crucial in protecting your and your client's interests.

Client Communication and Case Leadership

Effective client communication is essential to build trust and maintain a strong attorney-client relationship. Different from your role as a Public Defender, where you may have had limited time and resources to communicate with clients, private law firms often require more emphasis on regular client communication.

You'll need to keep your clients informed about the progress of their cases, explain complex legal concepts, and provide regular updates on any changes. In addition, you'll be responsible for managing your caseload, which may involve delegating tasks to other attorneys or support staff, setting deadlines, and coordinating with other professionals involved in the case.


Transitioning from a Public Defender to a private law firm can be a rewarding experience, but it comes with new responsibilities and challenges. Understanding the differences in the client intake process from the transition of a public defender to a private attorney is a vital first step in adapting to your new role. By focusing on client acquisition, developing strong client relationships, conducting thorough conflict checks and due diligence, and effectively managing your cases, you'll be well on your way to building a successful private practice.

If you need professional marketing services and are interested in learning how we can contribute to the growth of your law firm, we encourage you to reach out to us at Lab Coat Marketing. We are excited to explore how our 24 years of combined marketing experience can guide you toward accomplishing your goals!

If you are looking for a marketing partner that focuses on driving more leads to your firm at a low cost, then you need to talk to Lab Coat Marketing.
Armando Nava,
Nava Law

*We don't have a sales team, so don't worry about being spammed.

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