Wednesday, November 24, 2010

This Isn't Burger King

Two recent calls to my office contained the same type of client - "this is how we're going to do things.

The first had an employee call and advise that the boss currently had a lawyer but was looking for someone else. The employee refused to disclose the bosses' name because the last (read: one of 12) lawyer contacted his current lawyer and now he thinks his lawyer is upset with him.

I advised that anything the boss told me in contemplation of representation was attorney client privileged, but at some point, if hired, I would need to speak to his current lawyer.

A couple weeks later, boss calls and begins talking to me. I stop him and ask his name. He refuses to tell me. I explain that I cannot determine whether I have a conflict in accepting representation unless I have his name. He says, "ok, here's what I propose..." I responded, "here's what I propose, the next two words out of your mouth are your first and last name." He apologized for "wasting" my time, and hung up.

Potential client two calls and advises she wants to meet with me - "today.". I explained that I didn't know if I could meet with her that day, but if she faxed me her documents, I would read them over and try and call her.

I do this in most cases. If the client has documents I can review before a face-to-face meeting, maybe look up the docket sheet and see who the judge and prosecutor are, maybe do a bit of research, the face-to-face meeting can be more productive.

"I don't feel comfortable faxing you my documents."

This is a potential client that believes my fax machine is in the middle of a shopping mall, next to the candle kiosk.

I explained that my office was small, and the fax actually went right to my assistant's computer and then to me.

"I just don't feel comfortable faxing it to you."

I told her if she wouldn't fax me the documents, there was nothing I could do.

She said thank you and hung up.

Neither of these clients are clients I want. They are people with serious problems, who believe their control of the situation is as important as hiring a good lawyer. Many other lawyers would succomb to their desire to control the representation - anything for a fee, right?

I don't like paranoid clients - the ones who will never answer their cell phoones because they believe the FBI may be calling to discuss their recent possession of marijuana, the ones who take copious notes in my office (I don't allow that) so their Bar complaint against me has sufficient detail ("Mr. Tannebaum guaranteed he would win my case, have the prosecutor fired, and return all my money.")

These clients were more than paranoid, they were ones who would second guess every single thing I did throughout the representation. My experience, knowledge, relationships with people would mean nothing to them, they would have a better way of handling the case, throughout.

Many in our profession say "it's all about the client." Our profession - that of the criminal defense lawyer - is a simple one - we represent clients who are in trouble, may be in trouble, or in rare cases, are trying to avoid trouble. Yes, it's all about the clients.

But just like going to a doctor and seeking advice on a medical condition, it is inappropriate for a patient to say "doc, I'm going to lay on my side while you do this, instead of my back."

Many in our profession are willing to let clients run their lives and tell them how to do their job.

I am not.

If you want to "Have it Your Way," I'm the wrong lawyer.

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.Share/Save/Bookmarkokdork.com rules Post to Twitter