2015.48: To the Potential Client

Dear PNC (we call you PNCs, for “Potential New Clients”; it’s redundant, I suppose, but “PC” is already assigned to “probable cause” and “personal computer” and “politically correct”):

You have told me repeatedly that you are innocent. You don’t mean “legally innocent”—that is, unconvicted—but “factually innocent.” I don’t know whether you’re telling me the truth or not (people lie to me all the time), but please know that it doesn’t matter to me. It won’t decrease my fee, and it won’t make me do any better job.

I consider the act of putting people in boxes to be fundamentally immoral in virtually all cases, and I don’t believe that I—or any human—have the wisdom to distinguish the few cases in which putting people in boxes is moral from the many in which it is not. So it doesn’t matter to me whether they’re factually innocent. If anything, I prefer factually guilty clients—there is less stress, and I confess that I get impish joy from cutting loose a malefactor. I’ll do the same job on behalf of the innocent, but there is no innocent-client discount.

You might wonder whether I believe your protestations of innocence. Don’t wonder. At this point, I listen without judgment. I neither believe nor (unless your story is bad to the point of incredibility) disbelieve. You don’t want a dumb lawyer, so if you are factually guilty, you don’t want a lawyer who is dumb enough to believe you when you lie to him. And you don’t want a lawyer who thinks it’s his job to judge you, so if you are factually innocent, you don’t want a lawyer who is judgmental enough to care. 

I have been training for more than twenty years for this fight against the people who are trying to put you in a box. Law school, Trial Lawyers College, trial upon trial, appeal upon appeal, hundreds upon hundreds of hours of teaching and studying continuing legal education, hundreds upon hundreds of hours of psychodrama and improv training, board certification: everything has led up to your case. 

If you really want someone to whom it is important whether you “did it,” who won’t take your case or will do a lesser job if he believes you to be factually guilty, you can get that for a lot less than my fee, but you will be buying a duller blade.

6 responses to “2015.48: To the Potential Client”

  1. Not everyone will get this, until the Judge slams the hammer and the bailiff is slapping cuffs on you to lead you off the the holding block. You do get what you paid for.

    OTOH, it sure would be nice if entry level attorneys learned more of this fine art of Legal Zen at first, if only to assist those who cannot afford “justice”.

  2. Mark
    The prosecutor is getting paid to put our clients in small cages . Neither you nor I were ever prosecutors. I could not do that.

    Most people that prosecutors& judges put in jail or prison don’t belong there. Very few people are so dangerous that they truly need to be separated from the rest of us.

    Most people who are in jail are there because they are poor or had bad luck or did something stupid or they are innocent and they had a crappy, useless Lawyer.

    Robb Fickman

  3. Continually lying to me affects my ability to do my job . . . to a considerable degree. It also damages our relationship. These are not unimportant considerations.

  4. Ahh, Mark…you made me laugh aloud!!! I also do not give an “innocence” discount and do the same work, irrespective of guilt/non-guilt. The evidence tends to favor no one and I really trust in that. Just the flight of fancy gal that I am, I guess.

  5. Some of my favorite lawyer stories come from outlandish protestations of actual innocence. I seriously had a “crack in the crack” case where the defendant said the cops planted the evidence. I was thinking, “does this guy seriously think a jury will believe that the police sodomized him by shoving rock up his butt for no reason whatsoever?” Another good one was a strong armed robbery in the middle of Miami, in the middle of the summer, the wrongfully accused was caught running about three blocks away wearing a black ski mask. Reason for the ski mask? “It’s just my style.”

    For some reason people think that they are going to get an “actual innocence discount” or that I will fight harder for them if I believe that they are actually innocence.

    This kind of reminded me of an old public defender rant that has made its rounds online. This is the only place I could find it:
    Public Defender Rant

    My favorite part: “Don’t think you’ll improve my interest in your case by yelling at me, telling me I’m not doing anything for you, calling me a public pretender or complaining to my supervisor. This does not inspire me, it makes me hate you and want to work with you even less. “

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