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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Civil Lawyers, Come Here, Closer, Listen Up

Every so often criminal lawyers have the "joy" of interacting with a civil lawyer in the course of a criminal case.

Now look, I don't like to generalize. There are good and bad lawyers in every field, on every side. In general though, civil lawyers have a method of practice that is very different from criminal practice.

So civil lawyers, come here, closer, listen up:

[1] I went to law school too. There was nothing I read in school or in the last 15 years that mandates "confirmatory letters." I know you get .3 in billable time for writing and sending them, but I won't read them. I won't write them either. When you tell me something, I may scribble it somewhere, but that's for me. See, in criminal law if a prosecutor or defense lawyer doesn't keep their word, it gets around the courthouse in about 23 minutes. I know you come from the school of thought that every lawyer is a blood sucking not-to-be-trusted liar. That's your problem, not mine.

[2] I don't care about your schedule, just like you don't care about mine when you call and give me a deadline to call you back (followed up by a confirmatory letter) "or else."

[3] Court scares you, not me. So don't threaten me with "going to court." I love going to court. I love going to civil court where all the former criminal judges ask "are you lost Mr. Tannebaum?" "What are you doing here?" Trial? please. When we starting big guy?

[4] Cut the crap with telling me every time I ask for a courtesy that you "have to talk to my client." I don't care how "impatient" or "upset" your client is. My client may go to jail and the fact that your client wants a check isn't my priority. I'll try to help, but stop trying to make me believe that your client has to approve of you acting like a normal human being.

[5] Stop telling me you either "used to do some criminal," or "don't know anything about criminal," (with that holding-your-nose attitude). The fact is, you're not a criminal lawyer, and I'm not really interested in hearing about your distant history or lack of knowledge about what I do as if it makes you a better person.

And to those of you that don't do this stuff, call anytime. (I put that in writing for you)

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal 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. [6] Don't expect me to be impressed that you call yourself a "litigator" -- I'm a trial lawyer.

    The difference? You write confirmatory letters; I try cases.

  2. OK - this cracked me up, if only because I know it's just so true. I've always hated the "I've got to check with my client" game. Almost never true, although some of civil litigators are so risk adverse they'll check in with their clients before using the bathroom.

    BTW, my last court appearance (civil court, natch) was 13 years ago. No idea what you'd have to say about the kind of law practiced by lawyers like me who don't even know where the courthouse is located.

  3. Anonymous6:38 AM

    This made me laugh! It is SO true.

  4. [7] Stop calling me to ask if Doctor (or any other witness) can testify by deposition. He can't. I told him he could not. I know you're doing this as a favor for an important client, but you should at least have a vague memory of the defendant's right to confront witnesses from that mandatory CrimLaw class in law school. Yes, I know he'll be losing money while at court, but I don't have the ability to snap my fingers and change the Constitution.

  5. Anonymous11:18 AM

    all I can say is that I wish I had a bunch of criminal cases in our civilian courts. when I was a JAG we tried two or three a month and litigated sentence (sentencing phase of the trial). you plead everything out and leave the rest.

  6. Anonymous4:47 PM

    Amen Brian. You are on the money. When I was in private, court was seen as this valhalla that only a privileged few who knew the secret handshake and password could enter. Now that I'm in court non stop, I realize that its really not that intimidating and very enjoyable. I'm convinced that the lack of court time in civil practice is the reason why they (in particular big firms) focus/obsess on the most insignificant things such as the placement of a comma, etc.

  7. Well said. Clients of civil lawyers argue over money while our clients fight for their liberty. Which would you prefer? I'm always hearing that civil lawyers are more "cut-throat" - about what? Arguing about "rogs" that are overbroad?

  8. Anonymous8:28 AM

    As a former defense attorney and now law professor I also say Amen to this. Civil lawyers do not really know what the real world of trials is about

  9. Anonymous5:34 PM

    Your generalizations are laughable. I'm a civil trial lawyer who loves trying cases. I've tried 3 dayers and 3 monthers. I'm not impressed in the least with your chest pounding sarcasm. I find that lawyers who talk about trials the most are the most insecure. If I received all of my fee up front I wouldn't characterize not writing letters as evidence of intellectual superiority or legal prowess. I've seen many criminal lawyers attempt to try complex civil cases and the result is an almost always a train wreck.
    I came across your blog looking for a good criminal attorney for a friend. Glad I read it. Best of luck counselor.

  10. Aw Anonymous, I'm so very sad I'm not going to get to audition for your friend's case. Make sure to tell him there was one other lawyer you were considering, but he hurt your feelings so you did the bold thing and left an anonymous comment.

  11. Anonymous10:21 PM

    Your stratospheric level of arrogance led you to two erroneous conclusions: 1)I considered you to represent my friend, and 2)You hurt me feelings. Sorry but you don't have the ability to do either and you have a ton of maturing to do. As for your sophomoric "you're not man enough to post your name" inference, I won't disappoint you. I'll be sending you an email. BTW Narcisus, your blog is full of Anonymous comments. Of course, all have to be approved by you. Simply pathetic.

  12. Simply, or is it Mr. Pathetic?

    All anonymous commments are approved, and sometimes, in your case, I approve anonymous comments so the world can see that there are actually some lawyers out there that need to be laughed at.

    As for your email, save it. I, nor anyone else cares who you are, not even you.

  13. Anonymous10:49 PM

    So the "World" can see? Really? Don't worry this is my last post. I don't think "the world" can take watching you squirm in your sandbox any longer. Dont call people out if you don't have the stones for it Alice. Good riddance!

  14. "Dont call people out if you don't have the stones for it?" Did you actually write that, Anonymous?

    And "good riddance?" You're not going anywhere, in any sense of the term.