The Appointment, Part 2.

November 25, 2014

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[Ed.- This is part two of an ongoing series. For part one, click here.]

It was 10.11 am, and I was in the ante-room with my client, Barnaby Jones.

Mr Jones had been my client for all of 8 minutes now, and I had trial in a month, after his previous lawyer had sat on the case for four years. I’d just given him my spiel (e.g., I’m Leo, I’ve never been a prosecutor, I’ve always fought to the defense, I don’t treat my court-appointed clients any differently than my private pay clients, etc…).

Mr Jones was receptive to all this, and smiled as I shook his hand. I closed my elevator speech by taking out my business card.

“Mr Jones, take this. You and I have to talk. Soon. My office number is on the card, but here, let me write my cell on there…”

I don’t normally give my cell phone out to clients—for good reason. I’m not much a fan of getting calls at 10.30pm on a Saturday asking “So, what’s going on with my case?” (Answer: “Call me on Monday during business hours and I will let you know”.)

But with so little time to prepare, I had to get moving as soon as possible. I mean, we were scheduled for a jury in a month, I had literally no discovery, and I had three other courtrooms to be in that morning alone. The clock was ticking, and we needed to get started.

“Mr Jones, call my office when you get back home, and let’s schedule a time for you to come in this week to discuss your case. We don’t have a lot of time”.

He looked at me and nodded: “Yes, sir. But Mr Leo, it wasn’t me!” A familiar refrain for defense counsel.

“We’ll talk soon. Call me today”, I said as I walked out the door and down the hall to my next courtroom.

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The Appointment, Part 1.

November 8, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 10.55.39 AM“Mr Mulvihill, you’re appointed”.

The sound of the judge’s voice speaking my name startled me from my stupor. I’d been sitting in the courtroom for an hour waiting for the District Attorney in my case to show up.

Until a moment ago, I had been bored. All criminal defense lawyers are familiar with the “hurry up and wait” endemic to the system, and today had been no different.

It was June 10 at 10.03am. I’d been in the courtroom since 8.59am, intermittently checking my phone while waiting to have my case called so I could get back to the office and address the approximately 372 things outstanding on my to-do list. With no secretary or staff, all my administrative work was my own, and it was piling up every second I waited for the DA.

“Yes, Your Honor?” Because I was too busy looking at LOLCAT memes, I hadn’t caught what the Judge said. I hoped he didn’t notice.

“You’re appointed in Commonwealth versus Barnaby Jones. Trial date to remain, July 20 for a three-day jury. Mr Mulvihill, you’re attached, and it’s must-be-tried”.

July 20th?

A month away?

Fuck.

I felt as if I’d swallowed a lead brick.

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Are You “Experienced”?

July 5, 2014

Not only a good album, but a good question. Attorney advertising has been around as long as I’ve been practicing law, as have the Rules of Professional Conduct, which govern attorney behavior, including advertising.

In Pennsylvania, attorney advertising is governed by Rule 7.2 of the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct. As part of these rules, a lawyer may not use “inherently subjective terms” like “experienced” to describe their practice. This rule seems to be observed more in its breach than in lawyers’ adherence to it. Google “Experienced Pennsylvania Lawyer” (or just click that link) and you’ll see what I mean.

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The Plea

December 3, 2013

It is Tuesday at 9.30am and I am in the booth.

The booth is a tiny box where I have the honor of talking to my client through an inch of bullet-proof glass. I say “talking”, though it’s really more like yelling, since it’s pretty hard to hear through that glass.

“Booth” is a misnomer too. “Booth” reminds me of the precursor to something fun. You buy tickets to a movie or carnival rides at a booth. No such fun was happening today.

Really, the booth is purgatory, a limbo my clients sit in after they’ve made their way from the prison and to the courthouse basement’s holding cells, but before they enter the courtroom where they await final judgment.

This particular morning, I am wearing a navy flannel Brooks Brothers No. 1 sack suit, a white shirt I freshly pressed at 5.30 that morning, and a somber tie that reflected my mood.

In gross juxtaposition, my client is in an orange prison jumpsuit and has a thermal on underneath to keep warm. I guess this hell follows Dante’s rules.

My client is a good man who’d recently made a series of terrible decisions, all of which led to where he is today. Despite his cock-ups, he was truthful and admitted his mistakes not only to his family, but to members of his community.

Then the police became involved.

And he got arrested.

And his mistakes became a “case.”

And that’s how we ended up on opposite sides of the same sheet of glass on Tuesday at 9.32am. Read the rest of this entry »


Self promotion — but at what cost to clients?

June 1, 2013

ShamelessSelfPromotionI’ve been struggling recently with the concept of lawyers’ self-promotion via the media.

Recently, I’ve noticed attorneys in several high-profile cases end up with a camera in front of them and a reporter shoving a microphone into their face, asking them for a comment. Some of these lawyers are younger; others have been around long enough that I presume they know what they’re doing.

Until the lawyer gives a soundbite that could not possibly help their client, and seems calculated only  to get the lawyer’s name out in the evening news.

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Search Term of the Day: Legal Marketing Edition (Now, with memes!)

February 6, 2013

Every once in a while, I peruse what terms people use to find our blog. Occasionally it’s informative. Often, it’s hilarious. Sometimes it’s sad.

Well, today, someone found our blog using a search term that made me feel a way I can express best through a meme:

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“Young Lawyer Happy Hour” — uh, where are all the lawyers?

January 25, 2013
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“But I read this book so I already know everything about civil litigation!”

I went to a young lawyer happy hour the other evening night held by the Young Lawyer’s Division of a local bar association. I hoped to maybe meet a few other lawyers in their first years of practice, perhaps share a war story or two, commiserate about Judge Jones or Judge Judy, and swap business cards.

As I saw it, it’s never a bad thing to know more lawyers to whom you could refer cases, or maybe have cases referred to me.

Did I mention free beer and food?

What could possibly go wrong?

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