It’s All In The Timing

My clients come from all different backgrounds. Each has a decidedly unique case with equally unique considerations and priorities. However, some things are still the same between all of them. Regardless of the type of case, the  client, their professional status, or their financial situation, they fall into several categories with respect to timing–the moment at which they choose to seek counsel.

Early Risers: As soon as they smell the slightest hint of investigation or administrative/nonjudicial/judicial action, they call. They know they need someone who knows the process and options, and they want to make fully educated decisions. They give us time and, more importantly, opportunities. Wonderful folks, these early risers. You eagerly accept such astute and thoughtful clients.

Papers-In-Hand Congregation: These potential clients were in denial during the investigation, but now they have something in writing saying “We’re thinking about doing something bad to you, you have X days to respond.” They call while sitting in their car after having the papers served upon them. This isn’t a horrible situation for a lawyer. After all, there is time, just not as much as you’d want in a perfect world. In general, we give these clients the benefit of the doubt. Not wonderful, but OK. You smile and accept their case.

First Hearing Crew: The most serious adverse actions have some sort of preliminary or initial hearing. The same goes for some administrative matters. Members of this crew realize their predicament after stumbling-through the first legal proceeding. They are stunned, realizing that they and/or their appointed counsel are completely outgunned by the well-resourced government team. We sympathize with members of this crew, but we also chastise them for wasting a great opportunity for discovery and its bargaining chip status. These calls make you a bit red in the face, but nothing severe.

11th Hour Posse: The call is both amusing and alarming. It arrives late on Friday. “Sir, I am facing trial for _____. My lawyer hasn’t called any witnesses. He won’t call me back, and I don’t know what is going on.” I inquire, “When does your trial start?” They reply, “Monday, Sir.” I truly feel for these pathetic souls, but I’d consider myself incompetent to represent them given the dearth of time to prepare. I wish them well, but I also wish them goodbye. These calls give you a slight headache and uneasy feeling in your gut.

The Appellaters: These guys know they were screwed–by their lawyer, the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, the court reporter, their mom, and the janitor. Trial already came and went. Now, they need someone to unscrew the trial. They just know that, if they appeal their case to an appeals court, they will win. They believe an appeal to be a retrial. They become irate when you tell them that it is not. Someone told them that zealous argument by prosecutors creates harmful error. After the call, you suffer severe headaches.

The Geriatric Appellaters: These are the same as The Appellaters, but at least 20 years elapsed between conviction/appeal and their call to you. They tout new evidence that, when considered by the court, will easily overturn the conviction. The evidence? A statement, written by them. As a lawyer, you sigh and try to gingerly extricate yourself from the call. A significant percentage of these also suffer from federal agents following them to the supermarket, the NSA bugging of residences, and a host of other conspiracies. After the call, you consider suicide.