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LegalGround >> Came to a sad realization today


12/29/08 11:14 PM
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bflex
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I had a good year financially. Not as good as I wanted, but still close to 200k. My friend just settled a civil case and his 40% was 1.5 million!

I love criminal law. I don't even like anything else. However, I need to retire soon. I have set a goal at 10 more years. Seriously, 10 more years. 44 is a good age. That being said, in NC I can charge approximately 2k for a DWI. I am on the high end. That sucks. In order to make 1.5 million, I would have to do 750 DWI's. Considering I sign about 2-3 DWI's per month, that would take me 300 months or 25 years.

I have come to the realization that if I want to retire in 10 years, I am going to have to expand my practice. Either securities arbitration, which I know how to do, or personal injury.

I will still practice criminal law as it is my passion, but I am going to have to start making bank. I am depressed.
12/30/08 3:56 PM
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goku
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cmon...get those rapists back on the street!
1/4/09 10:09 PM
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StephenL
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maybe you could hire a kid to stand outside the police station who'll give each released prisoner a 30 second pitch.
1/6/09 4:47 PM
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goku
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excuse me...he also represents rapists, thieves and pedophiles
1/6/09 7:18 PM
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pm1964
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I'd love to retire at 44 too. Unfortunately, to do so, I will have to become independently wealthy in the next 6 months for that to happen.
1/6/09 8:09 PM
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bflex
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"excuse me...he also represents rapists, thieves and pedophiles"

AND DRUG TRAFFICERS!
1/11/09 10:32 PM
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jclay
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How easy is it to jump into personal injury? My mother works for a big shot personal injury guy in Miami, and he makes mega-bucks.

I would think all the trial experience doing crim would help, but it seems like it's hit or miss as far as establishing a client base -- at least for that first big case to make a name for yourself.

But hearing about million dollar settlements happening 4-5 times a year is enticing.

Best of luck to you
1/11/09 11:01 PM
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bflex
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The barriers to entry in personal injury are higher than criminal. You have a lot of large law firms and their partners are sharks. Most of them don't pay attention to ethics in advertising and are constantly fighting with the bar.
1/12/09 5:39 PM
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bflex
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I actually classify most personal injury attorneys as thieves. They will sue anybody. The good cases bring in a ton of money, but they will take crappy cases too just to get the nuisance settlement. I am not shooting for a nuisance settlement type practice.
1/13/09 9:46 AM
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bflex
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I actually defended a case once where a woman ate at a seafood resteraunt and then sued the resteraunt because she got the shits. She said she had food poisioning. No proof of it, but the asshole PI lawyer took the case and started pumping me for 15k than 10k than 5k. We settled at 3k.

I'm happy about it because it took him 8 months to get his 1k contengency fee.
1/13/09 3:32 PM
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bflex
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I am better than a PD because I have the luxury of paying attention to my cases. I don't have to plea things out just to clear my docket. Even the most dedicated public defender is put in a bad position of having to take deals that I would not take just because he or she doesn't have the time to try every case that needs to be tried.
1/13/09 4:00 PM
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Trust
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pm1964 - I'd love to retire at 44 too. Unfortunately, to do so, I will have to become independently wealthy in the next 6 months for that to happen.
Me too.  Almost exact same time frame, as well.
 
1/14/09 7:27 AM
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bflex
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I do, mostly, street level crime. The majority of my clients are privately retained. Some appointed.

However, you are right on one point, the justice system is NOT color blind. The justice system only sees one color. That color is GREEN!

Money = the best defense you can buy. No money = PD & a plea.
1/14/09 4:10 PM
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Bunkou
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"Money = the best defense you can buy. No money = PD & a plea."

Gotta disagree to some extent. Now, this may just be based on my locale, where the PDs are paid more than the prosecutors and attracts the cream of the graduating class (both the student marshal and "valedictorian" of my class went to the PDs), but if I had to randomly pick a defense attorney here, I would rather have a PD than a private attorney (especially in Federal court).

The vast majority of private attorneys are just interested in settling their cases as fast as possible to collect their money with the least work (and because they're scared of trials). They also don't want to take the harder trials because they're afraid of losing and having people think they can't win cases or upset their precious (and bogus) win/loss ratio.

Also, the experience of a lot of listed defense attorneys is nearly zero. If you actually practice criminal defense around here, you know everyone else who practices. Yet I still see advertisements and website claims for attorneys who've never even been in court. So, yeah, you could end up with someone business law attorney who's never done a criminal case before.

Interestingly, once when I was speaking with Justin Brooks, who headed the California Innocence Projects I & II, he pointed out that a lot of the cases they took were based on incompetent counsel. None of those were PD cases.

That said, if I could hand pick my attorney (with insider knowledge that Joe Public just doesn't have access to), I would pick all private attorneys. Of course, with a few exceptions, most of them are former PDs.
1/14/09 8:38 PM
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bflex
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You bring up a good point. The quality of the Federal Public defenders is far superior to that of a state pd. Plus when the federal pd's get overloaded, they farm out to private attorneys. So they aren't as overworked.

There are a lot of people who "practice" criminal law that shouldn't. I know of 10-15 people right off the top of my head who have been practicing criminal law longer than I have and have never even filed a motion to suppress let alone go to trial. There is one dipshit down the hall from me who brags that he hasn't taken a case to trial in 10 years. Two others on my hall have never tried a criminal case. This doesn't stop them from selling themselves as criminal defense attorneys.

In the meantime, I've had over 10 trials in the last year. Probably 10 motions to suppress.

Lastly, do I care about my win/loss ratio? To an extent, yes. However, I get sick and fucking tired of these "big shot" criminal defense attorneys who claim that they have never lost a jury trial. If you have never lost, you suck as a lawyer because you aren't trying enough cases.
1/17/09 3:27 AM
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Shaz
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I think it's dangerous to assume that a "paid" lawyer is better than a free one. I've seen some excellent public defenders in action (and yes some bad ones too). However, the worse attorneys I've ever seen, or gone up against, were privately retained. The very worst lawyer I ever tried a case against was a bankruptcy lawyer who did a little criminal "on the side". He was in WAY over his head and made some extremely serious tactical errors on trial that cost him the case.

-Shaz!
1/17/09 2:00 PM
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bflex
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Shaz - That is very true. There are some great PD's and some really crummy private attorneys. The "dabblers" are the ones that get me. People who "practice" criminal defense just to supplement their income. They usually suck.
1/17/09 3:25 PM
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Shaz
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This guy was retained on a burglary case I was handling a few years ago where a guy broke into his next door neighbor's home when they were away and stole property. He was seen by an eyewitness who lives across the street and some of the property was recovered from his home. He gave a weird statement to the police about how it was someone else but he was just helping a little.

He gets charged with Burglary in the Second Degree which in New York carries a mandatory minimum 3 1/2 year sentence if convicted. The original ADA the get the case offered him straight probation - NO JAIL! And he declined. He was indicted and I got the case. I said 6 months jail with probation if he returned the rest of the stolen property (irreplacable family heirlooms), or 2 years if he didn't return the property but still pled before trial. He wouldn't take it.

The attorney kept saying he wanted a dismissal or maybe a misdemeanor plea to Facilitation (which I had never heard of and actually had to look up). The lawyer kept saying he was ready for trial, ready for trial, ready for trial.

OK fine, so all offers are revoked and we do a hearing the week before trial is scheduled, which they lose. The night before jury selection, the attorney calls me and says his client wants to hire a new lawyer because he found out that the guy had never tried a felony before. He had handled a few misdemeanors, but no felonies.

We go before the judge the next day who asks the guy if he brought a new lawyer with him. The guy had not, so the judge asked the attorney if he was ready to proceed, and the attorney said he was, so we started the trial.

I checked his website, by the way, and he lists a few areas of law that he practices, bankruptcy, landlord/tenant, etc. - no mention of criminal. And no one in my office had EVER heard of the guy before, even though he had a local address.

So he did an absolutely horrific job.

Here's a snapshot of the beginning of the case: http://wcbstv.com/watercooler/Too.Heavy.Robbery.2.235564.html

And the end:
http://www.newyorkfreestyle.com/freestyle/showthread.php?p=4811

So anyway, I start getting calls and getting stopped by lawyers in the courthouse all talking about trying to get the case for appeal for ineffective of assistance of counsel.

This guy had the chance to get straight probation, or a significantly reduced sentence, is now facing a MANDATORY minimum 3 1/2 years in prison with no release until he's served 6/7 of his time, and a max of 15 years. In all likelihood, he would have gotten about 5 or 6 years.

Day of sentencing rolls around, he's a no-show. Warrant gets issued, I notify the local precinct. I get a call from my boss that weekend - he was found dead in a motel room, suicide by carbon monoxide poisoning. He was only in his late 30's with three kids not yet in high school. Very sad for the family - also the victims still lived next door to them (and I believe they still do to this day).

Never saw the lawyer again.

-Shaz!
1/17/09 11:16 PM
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Bunkou
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I can always trust Shaz to share an uplifting story when I'm feeling down.
1/18/09 7:04 PM
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Shaz
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You're welcome.

-Shaz!

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