Thursday, December 13, 2007

Want To Hire Me, Fire Your Other Lawyer, First

There are certain things that go on in the criminal practice that none of us talk about. Undercutting each other to get cases,traveling to other jurisdictions to take a case because of desperation for fees when a fully competent lawyer or several that we know and like practice in that jurisdiction, and taking over cases from other lawyers.

For the most part, we hate getting those calls from our colleagues that our client "came and met with me about his case and I'm going to be taking over." We see it as a failure and question the client's loyalty and truthfullness. Candidly, we hope for the worst for the client now that he's left us.

While I scan the net and see that the colleagues I respect are making decisions about how they practice when it comes to taking cases, cooperating with the government (more on that in another post forthcoming) trials, and fees, I've made one myself:

I will not talk to clients who are represented by another lawyer, period.

What happens is that the client gets concerned about their representation, they feel "nothing's going on," or more likely, they can't afford to continue paying their payment plan lawyer. (I don't do payment plans so that knocks out those clients from signing up with me anyway).

I used to meet with them, advise them to try to work things out with their lawyer, explain that they'd be paying a whole new fee, etc.... Most of the time they just wanted a second opinion, i.e., to waste my time for free.

New policy, instituted this week with someone. Call me and tell me you have a case, you're represented and are unhappy with your lawyer, my assistant will tell you to fire your lawyer if you're serious about new counsel. No meeting or conversation will occur with me until then.

Now how many of my colleagues are willing to join me?

In that answer lies one of the basic problems within the criminal defense bar.

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