Honesty Has Its Price

There are similarities and differences between my previous public defender clients and my current private criminal defense clients. There is also sometimes a difference in the way in which I respond to these clients.

For example, every client, rich or poor, wants to know whether their case will get dismissed. Of course, a dismissal is the holy grail of all criminal cases, but I'm still always a little taken aback when clients ask, "Why don't they just dismiss this case?"

I think that I was a little more tell-it-like-it-is with my public defender clients. I don't think I was rude in anyway, but I rarely felt that it was necessary for me to sugar-coat the truth.

So, to a public defender client, I might have responded, "Well, they went through the trouble of investigating you, getting a warrant for you, arresting you, and indicting you. A dismissal isn't going to just come easy now. The most likely way for your case to get dismissed is that the prosecutor finds a big screw up in your case, or if you can give me something good to show the prosecutor. Think about it, look over the paperwork about the case, and we'll see if we can figure something out."

With my private clients, they pay not not to have me explain the sad realities of the justice system, or to brainstorm with them, but to just fix it. And so, I say something like, "Yes, I'd really like to see your case get dismissed too. It's not easy, but I'm working on it."

After my tell-it-like-it-is explanation, most of my public defender clients would respond pretty positively. Some would say "Those cops are lying!" but there were some that said that to everything.

But, after my upbeat-but-vague answer, do you know what the private clients say to me?

"Ok, but how much more would I have to pay you to just case the get dismissed?"
"How much to *you know* just take care of the case?"

As if I'm going to walk over to the D.A. and say "Psst! Here's $20. Can you just dismiss that case? No? $50? Oh, ok, great, thanks."

What, am I going to do that only for you and not for any of my other clients? You don't think the judge is ever going to catch on? "Gee, all of Blonde Justice's cases just get dismissed instantly - she must be really good."

Do you think maybe that might be a little improper? And, if I was going to blow my whole career like that, don't you think I'd do it for a client I actually liked?

Or, don't you think I'd charge you a heck of a lot more?


  1. In Chicago, along about 1980, it took $150 to a judge to get a driving on suspended DL and a couple of moving violations dismissed.

    A few of those judges did go to prison though.

  2. Yeah, the fact that this shocks you tells me you're definitely not practicing near me, otherwise you'd recognize the Chicago Way.

  3. This can't be constitutional? http://sfbay.craigslist.org/forums/?ID=75409991

  4. If I were your client, I would want you to treat me as well as you treated your pd clients. Your comments would help me be more realistic and think about ways to help the case. Are you sure your private clients don't feel the same way? Have they said things like, "I don't want to hear about that--just fix it" or words to that effect?

  5. PS.

    That $150 also got my DL reinstated (it had been suspended because I'd failed to show up and pay a previous speeding ticket), and there was no lawyer fee. My lawyer was an associate of a large Loop firm where my bosses father-in-law was a named partner. They were well connected in Cook County politics and normally did not do criminal law or traffic tickets.

  6. The most common problem that I run into in my practice is severe price competition. Lawyers quoting fees that are too low. If a criminal defense lawyer quoted fees similiar to the way civil lawyers quote fees I think it might be more honest. In other words, the amount that I charge is according to the amount of work I do on your case. It may or may not be possible to obtain a reduced sentence, a dismissal, a good plea bargain or a good deal. This is not in any way to imply anything illegal. It means I will work as hard on your case to obtain a result that you can live with. How many hours I spend on your case will of course be dependent upon how much money you pay me. Would OJ Simpson have obtained the same result with a cheap lawyer? Its'nt it a reality of life that you usually get about what you pay for.... the more you pay someone ..... the more time they will spend trying to do a good job? I am just being realistic. This is not to say I won't try to obtain a good deal for any client that hires me, but it is a reality of life that the more money you pay someone .... generally the more time they can spend on your case. Thinking positive and maintaining a positive attitude can be difficult for anyone some times.
    Glen R. Graham --- http://www.glenrgraham.com

  7. Idiots! That sort of thing OBVIOUSLY costs at least $70. Jesus...where do you find these cheap people?

  8. Well, don't get them all dismissed immediately.

    You have to reset most of them a few times, or folks will become suspicious...

  9. There are two schools of thought here.
    First is that if you are charged with a crime, you want the best representation you can get. For this reason a person should not base their decision on price.
    Second. In some cases no matter how much a defendant pays an attorney he/she is going to get the same outcome. In this case the defendant may be overpaying for the services.