A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Thursday, December 31, 2009

A Criminal Defense Lawyer's New Year's Resolutions

I resolve:

To my clients:

[1] To never concern myself with your attempts to make me believe that somehow I am responsible for your current situation.

[2] That I will listen to you when you tell me what your lawyer friend in New York said about your Florida case. Once.

[3] That I will continue to tell you what I think, regardless of how much it may bother you.

[4] That I will continue to meet all my obligations to you, as long as you meet all your obligations to me. This isn't about money. It's about being on time, showing up at a scheduled meeting, getting me that witnesses' name and phone number that "saw everything," and returning phone calls.

[5] That I will continue to cut you off as soon as you begin the "isn't prosecuting me a waste of taxpayer's money," crap.

[6] That I will continue to be the one in our relationship who decides whether "this is a good case" for me, and whether it's a "simple case."

[7] To continue my policy of not rescheduling a missed initial consultation (save for emergencies). One of the best decisions I've made.

[8] To continue to quote "ballpark" fees over the phone in an effort to prevent a wasted hour of being told that "this is a good case" for me, and that it's a "simple case," and I should basically do it for free, because you have no money, and you're innocent, and the government is out to get you and, well, you know.

To judges:

[1] That I will always call when I am going to be late to your courtroom, and appreciate you doing.......nevermind. Next.

[2] That I will "file a motion" for the unbelievably simple thing I am asking for that no one cares if you grant. I just ask that.... you read it.

[3] That I will respect your vacation schedule, time needed for family obligations, need to be out of town for conferences, and the fact that you have other cases you need to get to. I just ask that...... You know, this section is not getting very far.

Let's try:


[1] To stick to my code of ethics, especially the part that requires me to give you a free shot to not be the horror that everyone claims you are.

[2] To continue to abide by whatever I tell you, in writing, over the phone, in court, in the bathroom, cafeteria, or ballgame. I trust you'll do the same.

[3] That while we are both "just doing our jobs," I will never tell you that I am "just doing my job." Because people who say that are usually in the process of pissing someone off.

[4] Even if you are a complete jerk, I will continue to never object to a continuance because you need one for personal reasons. Everyone has a car accident, fight with their wife, family member sick, kid issues, and just generally the need for time off. Everyone.

[5] I will continue to respect that your job is different than mine. You do the same, please.

Fellow members of the criminal defense bar:

[1] I will continue to not disparage public defenders, ticket lawyers, DUI lawyers, lawyers who only represent clients charged with petit theft of food on a Tuesday night when there's a full moon, or any lawyer who is competent to accept representation of a person whose liberty is at stake. I will continue to get business because of who I am, not because of what I say about you.

[2] I will always let you cut in line at the podium. Even if you say no to me because you "gotta get somewhere." I have no problem quietly making you feel like a putz.

[3] I will continue to never accept a referral fee from you. Just take care of the client for me.

[4] I will continue to act as if we are all on the same team, even if you don't conduct yourself that way.

Non-criminal defense lawyers:

[1] I will continue to practice law like a human being. You want a confirmatory letter - write it yourself. Threaten me with trial - just tell me when. Give me unreasonable deadlines, they'll be ignored.

[2] I will continue to be respectful when I tell you that I could care less about your civil case against my client. Really, I could care less, but I wish you luck.

[3] I will continue to be respectful when you tell me how good your civil case is against my client. If it is that good, you should win. Again, good luck.

Happy New Year.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal and Bar defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court. Read his free ebook The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer. To learn more about Brian and his firm, Tannebaum Weiss, please visit www.tannebaumweiss.com


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  1. Well said, Brian.
    After almost 20 years in the courtroom, I recognized all the vignettes and applaud you calling them out.

  2. Pam From Plano1:15 PM

    Thank you - that was a delightful way to begin my new year. I never make resolutions but this year I think I will just steal yours! I will make sure you are given due credit:)