NLADA’s Performance Guidelines offer an excellent, comprehensive and worthwhile definition of what constitutes good solid trial lawyering.  They give realistic meaning to the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel and to the ultimate goal for all trial counsel: “zealous and quality representation.”

The Guidelines are comprehensive but not exhaustive.  The language allows for flexibility.  While some actions are absolutely essential, others are left to counsel’s considered judgment and to the peculiarities of practice and law in each jurisdiction. In other words, rather than being a checklist of required actions, the Guidelines are a series of steps each attorney must consider performing on behalf of each client, applying professional discretion to determine whether each individual step is necessary in the client's case.

The guidelines are divided into nine sections:

  1. Role, Duties and Training and Experience of Counsel   
  2. Pre-Trial Release Proceedings
  3. Initial Appearance, Preliminary Hearing, and Prosecution Requests for Non-Testimonial Evidence
  4. Investigation, Discovery, Theory of the Case
  5. Pre-Trial Motions
  6. Plea Negotiations
  7. Duties at Trial
  8. Sentencing
  9. Post-Sentencing Duties