From the Mailbag


I’m just trying to find the best lawyer who makes me feel content. So far there hasn’t been one that can assure me that punishment will be under 5 years.

You will, if you keep trying, find a lawyer who will assure you that punishment will be under five years. This lawyer will be lying to you. Get his promises in writing—it probably won’t do you any good, but when they prove untrue, maybe you can get the State Bar interested in him.

Who am I kidding? The liar won’t give you that promise in writing without substantial weasel-words: when it comes to reducing the promises to writing, “you will get less than five years” will become, “there’s a 99% chance that you will get less than five years;” you’ll never prove him wrong.

The sad truth is that there is a strong correlation between lawyers who make promises to get cases, and lawyers who are prepared to deliver a competent defense; the correlation is negative. Lawyers promise the moon when they are unlikely to get hired on their merits. As criminal-defense lawyers, they probably lack many things, but the most important thing they lack is this: they don’t give a damn about their clients.

So you say that you haven’t found anyone to assure you that the punishment will be under 5 years; I say that’s a good indication that you’re on the right track.

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3 responses to “From the Mailbag”

  1. I can’t help but wonder what role the tranparent promoters, such as Avvo, have in fostering people’s unrealistic expectations of what lawyers can promise. From the calls I get via Avvo, there has been a huge upsurge in questions, such as how many of these cases have you handled in the past, what kind of results, what kind of guarantee do you offer.

    While there have always been scoundrels making false promises of results to score the case, I suspect that clients “learning” how to hire a lawyer from these webites are being led to believe that they are entitled to clear, firm answers to their every question, including a guarantee as to outcome. Whether that reflects the methodology of lawyers who favor Avvo isn’t clear, but it certainly puts potential clients in an awkward position in their hiring decision.

  2. I agree wholeheartedly. I also constantly get asked, “What do you think is going to happen; what do yo think the DA/Judge will think about that…?” to which my response has been, “I don’t know, I left my crystal ball in the car.” I think it’s unhealthy to sit there and speculate “What ifs” all the time. Eventually I tell the client to not worry about the case until I tell them that it’s time to worry–and that seems to work fairly well.

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