Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Beware the song of the Sirens

I had an interesting conversation this afternoon with a gentleman (and I use that term rather loosely) we will call Attorney X.

Attorney X is someone I ran into a the municipal courthouse a couple of months back who asked me to take his kid's ticket case on an IOU. Needless to say I declined his generous offer of employment.

Attorney X claimed to work for one of the city's white-shoe firms as the "fixer." He asked for my card and said that this firm occasionally picked up some criminal cases and needed someone to handle them. I walked away figuring I'd never hear from Attorney X again.

This afternoon when I got into the office I listened to the voice mail messages that had accumulated while I was in court this morning. There was one message asking me what it would cost to hire me to plead out a case. The caller didn't leave a name.

I called the number and, guess who answered? Attorney X.

He told me his firm had been using another attorney to handle their criminal matters but that he had started to get too "uppity" and was dragging cases out too long. He complained that this other attorney (whom I hold in high esteem, by the way) seemed to be "too tight" with the judges and prosecutors. Attorney X told me he had this kid who picked up a possession case and that they could get a letter from a doctor about his need for the drugs found in his possession. He asked me what I would charge to plead the kid out on Friday.

I told Attorney X that I needed to talk to the kid before I could agree to anything. He then called the kid on three-way so I could talk to him.

I found out this was the kid's second court date - he had been reset to hire an attorney. I found out the kid had a history of possession cases. I asked the kid what outcome he was looking for in this case and he told me he did not want to be put on probation.

Attorney X then asked how much to plead the case out. I told Attorney X that I didn't roll that way. I quoted him my regular fee on that type of case and told him that I hadn't seen an offense report and that there might be legal issues we could exploit.

All of a sudden Attorney X announces that the conversation was over and hung up.

The lesson of this? It's all too easy to be seduced by a bit of cash to compromise your principles. Just remember, at the end of the day, those principles are all you've got.


Mark Bennett said...

If you compromise them, they are no longer principles.

Is Attorney X really a lawyer? With a license and everything?

Paul B. Kennedy said...

He claims he is. I've never seen his license or his bar card. What struck me most about the conversation is that he will find someone willing to stand next to the kid and plead him out.

Lisa Henry said...

OK, Run for the Hills Paul . . . in layman's terms; All money, ain't good money.

On a serious note. Marketing for defense attorneys has drawbacks and the number one drawback is what you described. We have to put our moral compass on when taking on a new client. It should be none of our concern what the attorney does with the case marketed for him, however my conscious cannot take leading lambs to the slaughter.

Great Blog!

Paul B. Kennedy said...

Thank you for your comments, Lisa.

Just one "churn and burn" defense attorney is one too many. It's not about a paycheck - it's about someone's life.