Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Dear Prospective Client, Sitting In My Lobby

Welcome to my office and thank you for considering me to represent you in your case. Prior to our meeting, I thought it would be important for you to have some information about my practice.

[1] You are here today because someone, a former client, attorney, family member, friend, or just someone you trust gave me your name. I know this because I do not advertise or mail brochures to those "recently arrested." What this means to you is that I do not have a "volume" practice. A "volume" practice is one where the attorney advertises and has many clients. A lawyer who has a "volume" practice is able to charge lower fees based on the number of clients. There's nothing inherently wrong with a "volume" practice, it's just not my practice.

The difference between my practice and a "volume" practice is comparable to the difference between public and private school. The question being, would you like your child in a class with one teacher and 50 kids, or one teacher and 20 kids? If you want more attention, you need to pay for it. By the way, I went to public school and did just fine, but the consequences of not doing well weren't a conviction and jail.

[2] I may decline to represent you. I will most likely decline to represent you if you tell me that "this would be a good case for you." This means you may think it is a privilege for me to represent you. It may be, but I'll determine that.

I may also decline representation if I "just don't like" you. I enjoy my life. I'm not one who works 7 days a week, has no relationship with their kids, considers a vacation to be taking a Friday off, tolerates clients who believe that I am "on call" 24/7, or otherwise believes that the focus of my basic existence is clients. If I take your case, you will learn quickly how important you are and receive a great deal of attention, but if I believe we are not a good fit, I may do us both a favor and refer you to another criminal lawyer.

[3] When you called, if you asked about fees, you were told my minimum fee. The fact that you are here indicates that you either didn't ask or that this possible minimum fee is not as important as the quality of the lawyer you choose. If you didn't ask, I will let you know now that my minimum fee is ________ for a misdemeanor, ________for a felony, _________ for a federal case (feel free to insert other types of cases). If this is out of range for you, please thank my receptionist who greeted you today, give her back the coffee mug or glass, and drive safely.

[4] Regarding fees, they are not negotiable, and I do not arrange payment plans, except in very limited circumstances. Even in those limited circumstances, it's not a payment plan that includes more than 2 payments. What this means is that you should avoid asking me if I can "make it lower," "give a bigger discount (especially if I've already discounted the fee for some reason)," or "how is it paid?" Again, you may consider it a privilege for me to represent you, but it is not a privilege for which I am willing to pay.

[5] One last thing on fees. The fee I quote you is good for 24 hours. Based on my experience, if a client hasn't retained me in 24 hours, they are "shopping" for the lowest bidder, or have no intention of retaining me. I'd rather not think about it for more than a day. It just annoys me.

[6] Finally, there will be no taking of notes. It's more important that you listen to me and that we can talk without any distraction. In the end, your notes will only provide a method to remind me, and the Bar Association of things I said that may not come true. Such as me telling you that your "case can probably be resolved quickly," or that "your case is complicated and will take a lot of work." My predictions are merely that, predictions. They are not spoken for you to memorialize my words so that every time we talk in the future you can remind me of what I said.

Thanks for coming, I'll be with you shortly.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense attorney in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com