I was thinking about my divorce that I went through about ten years ago.
I had only been married for about a year, and there were no children.
Almost all of my assets had been acquired before the marriage.
At the first meeting with the lawyer he told me that since we had only been married for about a year that the divorce should be fast, easy and cheap.
I paid the initial fee and he filed for my divorce.
At the next meeting everything was gloom and doom. He told me that I could lose half my house and business, and that I should be prepared for a legal fight and that, of course, the legal fees would increase.
I went home, called my wife, and asked her if she would prefer that all the money go to the lawyers or that some should go to her. We agreed on my paying her $3,000 and letting her keep her car.
On looking back it seems as though the lawyer tried to pull a bait and switch scam tactic on me.
This is very common in my experience and I’ve heard plenty of other stories similar.
The way it usually goes is that in a criminal case that you believe is baseless or the search was illegal etc. the lawyer will agree with you and agree to fight it and take it to trial.
Then once you’ve paid him in full suddenly things look horrible for you, trials never work out in the defendants favor you are told, it doesn’t matter how poor the evidence is you are told it would be insane to take the risk, you are advised to just take the plea deal which is so sweet you’d be crazy not to. Afterward you realize you could have forgone paying the lawyer and just taken the plea deal from the prosecutor directly.
I know one woman who refused to budge on the plea deal thing, she insisted the lawyer take it to trial. He then asked her if she had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness, because he couldn’t understand how someone would not listen to their lawyer. He stopped answering her calls, started acting flakey and making more comments and so she dumped him(which I am sure is what he wanted).
In a criminal case, things often start looking bad for the defendant when the prosecution responds to discovery, and reveals that the defendant is lying through his teeth, there are multiple credible witnesses against the defendant, backed by dna/forensic evidence, sometimes even video, and once in a while an actual confession that the defendant failed to mention when telling his lawyer about the case.
At an initial interview, a lawyer is going to assume the client is telling the truth and providing all relevant information, and advise accordingly. I even preface my comments with something like “Assuming everything you’ve told me is true, and there is evidence to prove it, then …”
As the case develops, all those “tiny little details” that “aren’t important” come to light, and they often end up biting a deceitful client in the ass.
Too true, I wasn’t bashing lawyers in general BTW.
Can I ask if any lawyer would take a case to trial for $500-3000? Usually people get happy because they finally found a lawyer they can afford who promises to go to trial, I usually think no one would go trial for under ten grand.
Depends on the type and complexity of the case. The goal is not usually to “go to trial”. The goal is to solve the legal problem, which can often be accomplished without a trial. A relatively small number of cases are actually tried. The discovery process is often helpful in resolving factual disputes, which can lead to a negotiated settlement. In my experience in family law matters, clients are usually happier with a settlement they’ve negotiated and accepted than they are with a trial result.
More directly on point, yes, in my area, many lawyers will try a domestic dispute…divorce, child custody, etc. for under $3K. Same for many misdemeanor criminal cases–dui, simple assault, shoplifting, etc. That amount is enough to cover a couple of court appearances, usually one for a temporary hearing in family law or a plea day in a criminal matter, basic discovery, and a one day trial if needed. As the issues become more complicated–high asset divorce cases, felony criminal matters–the time required, and thus the fee charged, goes up.
I agree with Oakminster. During the initial interview, the lawyer is getting only one side of the story and any predictions are based on information available at that time. I also agree that these predictions should be qualified by the lawyer in the manner suggested.
There are many lawyers who have no specialty and they may therefore express a certain confidence that is not warranted. Once the research begins things become more clear to the attorney and he discovers things that a specialist would have been able to tell you at your first meeting. It is not bait and switch, merely you paying for his education.
I feel dirty defending the reputation of lawyers, but I know a couple of criminal defense lawyers, and from what I can tell they’re always very frank about how bad things can go right from the start. Maybe these are just the good guys, or it may just be part of getting their clients to be straight with them right off the bat. But I know they get people better than expected results sometimes, and one I’ve recommend one of them to a couple of people, and they were very happy with the results.
However, a criminal defense attorney who does take advantage of his clients is a particularly low form of life.
I’m so glad I don’t represent individuals anymore, only large corporations. And I’m not even in the criminal, family or personal injury law fields! I’m in IP!
Occasionally an individual walks into our office and gets directed to me, and I quickly direct them to someone else in another firm who I know is competent and willing to take them. If family or friends need IP help I do it myself, for free, because I want to help them and I want it done right. Other than that, I won’t deal with individuals because I don’t want to get caught up in the shitstorm that is their life. I don’t want them calling me at all hours wanting me to teach them the fucking law because they don’t understand it because they have no experience.
Give me a corporate client any day. They have staff who roughly know what they are doing and you can communicate with them easily in shorthand. And if something goes wrong it doesn’t mean someone’s life is ruined. It’s how I can sleep at night.
My girlfriend paid a lawyer $7,500 because he assured her on the phone that she had a very beatable DUI case based on what she was telling him. Once he got the money she never heard from him again until the trial. He came in unprepared with no knowledge of her case at all and simply told her to plead guilty. He was paid to argue the case.