HONEST TRUTH ABOUT THE “BUSINESS” OF CRIMINAL DEFENSE
“Sign ’em up” is the order of the day in some offices.
There are firms out there where special ‘sales’ attorneys will tell you whatever it is you want to hear, so long as they think it’ll get you to sign up and fork over your money. In other instances, these firms will use scare tactics to get you to hire them, when it’s really not a wise or necessary use of your resources to pay a lawyer at that time. Be careful of anything that sounds too good to be true, and always ask the important questions before giving anyone any money.
It’s easy for the Internet to make a big operation look local…
There are large operations that pay a LOT of money every month in advertising dollars to make their firm look ‘local’ to just about every courthouse in town. Many firms maintain ‘virtual’ (read: fake) addresses in towns all over the area to make it seem like they have dozens of satellite locations, but if you were to go to those addresses, you’d see it’s just a mailbox. Now, if you are only looking to take care of a speeding ticket, maybe you don’t care– maybe you even want to hire a firm with that kind of ‘economy of scale.’ But if you’re facing a criminal case, you don’t need that kind of phony marketing shtick. See ‘Choosing a Lawyer’ for more on this topic.
Every dollar spent by a criminal defense lawyer comes out of a client’s pocket.
Unless the attorney inherited a large trust fund and is just doing this as a hobby (but that’s not very likely, is it?), every dollar being spent comes out of the pocket of a client. Now, there are honest ways to earn money. Criminal defense attorneys, as a whole, are a hard-working group of people who need to make a living and deserve to be compensated for their work. All the same, if you walk into a fancy office with a dozen staff members and redwood paneling, remember: that’s being paid for by someone– maybe you. To be clear: some costs incurred by attorneys are money well spent, in that they actually help you get a better result. And there are some costs which have to be incurred just because that’s what it takes to run a business, whether that’s office space or (reasonable) marketing expenses. Unfortunately, though, some expenses are there just to impress you or to inflate the attorney’s ego– look what I can buy!– and those expenses, even though they are of no actual benefit to you, get taken right out of your pocket just the same.
Referrals can be extremely helpful, but not if they’re being bought by the firm.
This is tricky. Referrals really are the best way to find a lawyer. However, if a bail bondsman or anyone else refers you to an attorney, be forewarned: it is not lawful for an attorney to pay ‘kickbacks’ to a bail company, private investigator, or any other non-lawyer for the referral. Nobody should ever have a problem with you asking, “Do you get a referral fee from that person if I hire him or her?” The answer should be a clear and unflinching no. If someone is offended by you asking that question, you’ve got every right to be suspicious. Never be afraid to ask about referral fees, cost-splitting, or any other aspect of the financial arrangements involved. ALL THAT SAID, again, referrals from one criminal defense attorney to another are quite common and are generally a good thing. It’s also quite common for an attorney to give the names of a bail company, private investigator, or expert witness because they know and trust that person/company’s work, not because they have any financial interest in you hiring that company.