Should I Start a Law Practice? (Redux)—Retrospective, Dec. 31, 2014

December 31, 2014
The Author with an Author

Sometimes real lawyers agree to slum it with the likes of me.

The practice of law is about relationships“.
-Me (And Brian Tannebaum, and probably plenty of other people much smarter than I am).

About two and a half years ago, Jordan wrote a post called “Should I Start a Law Practice?” It remains one of our most-viewed articles on this blog. Because it’s the end of the year,  rather than being creative and thinking of a new and exciting topic, I decided, now concluding my fourth year of practice, and having started as a true solo fresh out of law school, to revisit the topic Jordan discussed back in 2012. I’d intended to write this follow-up to his post way back then, but simply never got around to it.

My perspective is different that Jordan’s—partly because I graduated in 2010, when the market had tanked—and partly because I did not work at a firm before I hung my shingle.

Here’s my point: You should start a practice if you want to, and if you understand that the practice of law is all about relationships—with your colleagues, with your mentors, and with your clients.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Appointment, Part 2.

November 25, 2014

Screen Shot 2014-11-08 at 10.55.39 AM

[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.

Read the rest of this entry »


Stop Snitching on Yourself.

November 14, 2014
My next cards are going to look like this.

My next cards are going to look like this.

There is a space on my potential client interview form that prompts me to ask my potential clients if they gave any statements to the police, whether on the scene where they’re arrested or back at the station.

I am considering removing it, because it is useless.

Invariably, when I first ask them this questions, 9/10 clients say “No, man, I know my rights”. Great! I love when my clients know their rights. It makes my job a lot easier.

Then I start talking with my clients about what happened when they got arrested, and that “No” becomes “well, I guess I said it wasn’t me”. Or “I told them I didn’t have any drugs on me because I wasn’t a dealer, I was a user”. Or, my favorite “Why are you arresting me? I didn’t shoot anyone!”. Or “I just wrote down everything that happened, and I apologized for taking all the money”.

Folks, I have four words for you: “Shut. The. Hell. Up.” Read the rest of this entry »


In case it’s not perfectly clear…

July 1, 2014
GetAWarrantiPhone

Get a Warrant — for iPhone

I made this on my iPhone yesterday, and it currently serves as my lock screen.

Feel free to download and use it appropriately.

Tell your friends and share as much as you’d like. Get the word out there that police may not search your phone without your consent or a warrant, thanks to Riley v. California.

(Wikipedia here, SCOTUS opinion here, OYEZ project link here).

While you’re at it, turn off location services.

Edit: I had a colleague point out to me that the text is obscured by the unlock dots on some Android phones. An Android version is below the fold.

2nd Edit: Ken at Popehat requested a special custom version, which is also below the fold. Use at your own risk.
Read the rest of this entry »


Making People Stupider: Jezebel Edition

June 20, 2014
About That Time Jezebel Made People Stupider

About That Time Jezebel Made People Stupider

Today in Making People Stupider, I present to you the Jezebel article by Erin Gloria Ryan titled “About That Time Hilary Clinton Smeared a Tween Rape Victim“.

Read it. Please. Yes, including the comments section.*

Here’s are two highlights :

On the other hand, how massively fucked is it that our legal system expects and encourages attorneys to treat rape victims like this? And that even Hillary Clinton didn’t have the balls to set her career goals aside for a moment and stand up to what she must have known was bullshit, even in the midst of a time in her career she claims was devoted to serving children and families?

***

Hillary Clinton didn’t ‘laugh at a rape victim’ as the coverage errantly insists, but she definitely was the sort of lawyer who would attack the credibility of a rape victim in pursuit of legal victory.

You’re right, Erin. It couldn’t possibly be that Hillary was doing her job as a criminal defense lawyer and had an ethical obligation to defend her client however she could—it was that she had “career goals”. She should have “had the balls” to roll over and sell her client up the river, in derogation of her ethical duties to her client, because she’s the sort of lawyer who DARES to attack the credibility of a complaining witness.

Oh, and “the children”.

I was going to write a much longer, angrier, piece about the history of what criminal defense lawyers do, our ethics, our duties to our clients, etc., but it would be wasted breath keystrokes.

I’ll just say this: criminal defense lawyers have an ethical obligation to defend their clients. There is no “I understand, but…”. It simply is.

Erin Gloria Ryan, shame on you for making people stupider today .

*I am ashamed to say I broke Rule 1 of the Internet and argued in the comments.


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 »