Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

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Veyron
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Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:20 pm

And can tell me a bit about the field? Specifically how do you like the work, how big is your firm, what sort of stuff do you do every day, etc.?

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:27 pm

Veyron wrote:And can tell me a bit about the field? Specifically how do you like the work, how big is your firm, what sort of stuff do you do every day, etc.?

I was a paralegal for a solo and I know a lot about it...

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:28 pm

Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:And can tell me a bit about the field? Specifically how do you like the work, how big is your firm, what sort of stuff do you do every day, etc.?

I was a paralegal for a solo and I know a lot about it...


Good enough. Can you speak to hours, type of work, income, and/or how to break into the field?

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:48 pm

Veyron wrote:
Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:And can tell me a bit about the field? Specifically how do you like the work, how big is your firm, what sort of stuff do you do every day, etc.?

I was a paralegal for a solo and I know a lot about it...


Good enough. Can you speak to hours, type of work, income, and/or how to break into the field?


Worked for 2 actually, one solo and one who did criminal work in a partnership

Typical day:

In the morning you go to court. Not always for interesting stuff. Think status conferences, initial appearances, etc. You leave court at about 10:30 -11:30 and then maybe you take some phone calls before lunch. After lunch, you talk to DAs, screen new clients, go to visit clients in jail, etc. You don't do a lot of reasearch and writing. It's a lot of negotiation, etc. One atty. would visit a lot of clients in jail on wknds, the other would mainly do weekends off. When you go to trial, this all goes to shit and you prepare all the time.

Type of work:

Both of these guys did a lot of major state and federal crimes (drug trafficking, murder, RICO, robbery, etc.). One only did major felonies. The other would do some misdemeanor stuff.

Income:

Very well off. I know the solo had some million dollar grossing years. The thing people forget about small law is it's very much running a business. You spend a lot of time talking to clients, trying to drum up new clients, and a not-insignificant portion of time making sure the mechanics of your business run efficiently. A HUGE part of this is collections. There are a lot of potential clients, not many of which can actually pay you. So you spend a lot of time getting people to pay, and doing stuff like threatening to stop work on their case. For a large murder case, we could chage $75k right off the bat and $50k more if the thing went to trial. You don't bill by the hour. It's flat fees, and you try to get most of it up front. Sometimes, we would do payment plans in which we would get someone to use their mortgage on their house to secure a prommissory note. Collections is a BIG part of any small practice, but sepecially so in criminal defense (people who committ crimes tend to be poor). Also, you gotta have a solid network of people who can refer you cases. You gotta be good at running a business and collections, or you WILL fail.

How to break in:

Both started in the PDs office, which was invaluable. Lots of trial work. A lot of doing criminal defense is fostering good relationships with the DAs and judges so you can get good deals. For your run of the mill offender who won't go to trial, that's a lot of what you pay for. Trial work is a big part of it. These guys were gifted in the courtroom. One of them's writing wasn't his strongest suit, but he was truly gifted in the courtroom with a magnetic personality. This is the kind of guy where he tells stories and everyone loves to hear them. Does VERY well. And in state court, where many people didn't even read the damn briefs, this is what matters. Sometimes we would write the motion to suppress and we wouldn't even have to argue it. We'd get offered a deal on the spot from the tired DA. Federal court is a little bit of a different story, but a lot of the same stuff applies.

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:50 pm

Also, if you're doing white collar/internal investigation for a biglaw firm, it's different.

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IAFG
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby IAFG » Tue Oct 04, 2011 7:52 pm

I know of someone who does, but I suspect he's too much of a pussy to out himself. *cough*

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:10 pm

Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:
Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:And can tell me a bit about the field? Specifically how do you like the work, how big is your firm, what sort of stuff do you do every day, etc.?

I was a paralegal for a solo and I know a lot about it...


Good enough. Can you speak to hours, type of work, income, and/or how to break into the field?


Worked for 2 actually, one solo and one who did criminal work in a partnership

Typical day:

In the morning you go to court. Not always for interesting stuff. Think status conferences, initial appearances, etc. You leave court at about 10:30 -11:30 and then maybe you take some phone calls before lunch. After lunch, you talk to DAs, screen new clients, go to visit clients in jail, etc. You don't do a lot of reasearch and writing. It's a lot of negotiation, etc. One atty. would visit a lot of clients in jail on wknds, the other would mainly do weekends off. When you go to trial, this all goes to shit and you prepare all the time.

Type of work:

Both of these guys did a lot of major state and federal crimes (drug trafficking, murder, RICO, robbery, etc.). One only did major felonies. The other would do some misdemeanor stuff.

Income:

Very well off. I know the solo had some million dollar grossing years. The thing people forget about small law is it's very much running a business. You spend a lot of time talking to clients, trying to drum up new clients, and a not-insignificant portion of time making sure the mechanics of your business run efficiently. A HUGE part of this is collections. There are a lot of potential clients, not many of which can actually pay you. So you spend a lot of time getting people to pay, and doing stuff like threatening to stop work on their case. For a large murder case, we could chage $75k right off the bat and $50k more if the thing went to trial. You don't bill by the hour. It's flat fees, and you try to get most of it up front. Sometimes, we would do payment plans in which we would get someone to use their mortgage on their house to secure a prommissory note. Collections is a BIG part of any small practice, but sepecially so in criminal defense (people who committ crimes tend to be poor). Also, you gotta have a solid network of people who can refer you cases. You gotta be good at running a business and collections, or you WILL fail.

How to break in:

Both started in the PDs office, which was invaluable. Lots of trial work. A lot of doing criminal defense is fostering good relationships with the DAs and judges so you can get good deals. For your run of the mill offender who won't go to trial, that's a lot of what you pay for. Trial work is a big part of it. These guys were gifted in the courtroom. One of them's writing wasn't his strongest suit, but he was truly gifted in the courtroom with a magnetic personality. This is the kind of guy where he tells stories and everyone loves to hear them. Does VERY well. And in state court, where many people didn't even read the damn briefs, this is what matters. Sometimes we would write the motion to suppress and we wouldn't even have to argue it. We'd get offered a deal on the spot from the tired DA. Federal court is a little bit of a different story, but a lot of the same stuff applies.


This is a goldmine. Thanks, working on setting up an externship like this. How many trials a year did they tend to get? What do you think the secret is to setting up a good referral network?

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:18 pm

Veyron wrote:This is a goldmine. Thanks, working on setting up an externship like this. How many trials a year did they tend to get? What do you think the secret is to setting up a good referral network?


Hmm trials? Maybe 4-8 big felony ones a year? Hard to say. This could vary as well. If you're going misdemeanor crap which may take life half a day to try and it's small beans you may see more. But with major felony trials that are super expensive, you still see them in must not lose situations like murder and sex crimes (people don't tend to want to plea out to a lesser sex crime due to having your name on a registry) but people generally don't want to go with such high stakes and/or can't afford it.

The secret is networking. Meeting lawyers, having lunch with lawyers, being friends with fellow practitioners, participating in bar stuff. On the client side you want get criminals to refer you to their buddies and keep repeat offenders coming back for your services (they tend to reoffend). You can also advertise via direct mailings to prison inmates (have your paralegal or someone comb last night's arrest every morning and send mailers).

mrloblaw
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby mrloblaw » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:23 pm

Thanks for the post, Grizz. I've been wondering what private crim would be like if I didn't do white-collar.

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:26 pm

mrloblaw wrote:Thanks for the post, Grizz. I've been wondering what private crim would be like if I didn't do white-collar.

No problem. Happy to take any more inquiries.

adt231
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby adt231 » Tue Oct 04, 2011 8:28 pm

Grizz wrote:keep repeat offenders coming back for your services (they tend to reoffend).


lol.

thanks for the posts.

floggered
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby floggered » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:35 pm

Grizz wrote:There are a lot of potential clients, not many of which can actually pay you. So you spend a lot of time getting people to pay, and doing stuff like threatening to stop work on their case. . .


Model Rules of Professional Conduct, anyone?

PS. Great post.

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:53 pm

-
Last edited by Veyron on Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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npe
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby npe » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:09 pm

floggered wrote:
Grizz wrote:There are a lot of potential clients, not many of which can actually pay you. So you spend a lot of time getting people to pay, and doing stuff like threatening to stop work on their case. . .


Model Rules of Professional Conduct, anyone?

PS. Great post.


MRPC 1.16(b)(5):

(b) Except as stated in paragraph (c), a lawyer may withdraw from representing a client if:

(5) the client fails substantially to fulfill an obligation to the lawyer regarding the lawyer's services and has been given reasonable warning that the lawyer will withdraw unless the obligation is fulfilled;


HTH.

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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:10 pm

Basically, here is a general checklist you want when screening a client:

1) Where is the client held? If it's gonna be a pain in the ass to go see the client in jail or to actually go to court, you don't want to do that. Obviously exceptions (some Sicilian is payng big bucks), but you don't want to have to drive 3 hrs. to go visit your client and appear in court for his robbery charge. Client won't pay for it, and you don't want to.

2) What is the charge? Depending on what else you got going on, maybe you want to throw the misdemeanors back. Possession? Yawn. However, if you possess enough, you can get hit with the trafficking charge. Now that's something worth spending time on. Then again, if this guy is repeat business, go ahead and take it for the repeat business/client relations. Make sure the client knows that the actual charge is. You may have to look it up.

3) How much is the case worth? Sort of fits in which #2. You can charge a lot more for a murder than a Possession WITS. Trafficking is just a bigger charge. You're gonna have to spend time on these cases (opportunity cost) and probably aren't going to/won't withdraw (you don't want to get a rep. for a dude who withdraws) so weigh against the opportunity cost.

4) *Most important* is the client serious/can they pay? First question after asking what they're charge with: are they out on bond? If not, do they plan to post bond? If yes, this means they must have some residual funds, esp. if it's a bigger case with a bigger bond. If it's some crappy Poss WITS with a low bond and they can't even post that they probably can't afford you. Ask if they have funds/if they have assets. No, your motorcycle/crappy Buick is not an asset. Property? Yeah probably. Family with cash? Even better. You do NOT want to put your name on any pleadings or do ANY work until you get the retainer. An atty. I knew though did get an old 80s Mercedes as payment though, which was sweet, though not want you want to get paid with usually.

5) Do you have good client rapport/can you trust your client/is your client off his rocker. You want someone who is easy to work with. This is important. Also, you don't want your client to hold back and drop any unanticipated bombs on you later. Some clients are more like professional criminals and know the game. However, some have VERY unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve and what you can actually do/file. You want to trust the client and the client to trust you. Satisfied customers are repeat customers (and not necessarily in crim either - your client gets hit with a DUI, but you don't do that, so you refer it; networking!) and bring in new business.

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:53 pm

Grizz wrote:Basically, here is a general checklist you want when screening a client:

1) Where is the client held? If it's gonna be a pain in the ass to go see the client in jail or to actually go to court, you don't want to do that. Obviously exceptions (some Sicilian is payng big bucks), but you don't want to have to drive 3 hrs. to go visit your client and appear in court for his robbery charge. Client won't pay for it, and you don't want to.

2) What is the charge? Depending on what else you got going on, maybe you want to throw the misdemeanors back. Possession? Yawn. However, if you possess enough, you can get hit with the trafficking charge. Now that's something worth spending time on. Then again, if this guy is repeat business, go ahead and take it for the repeat business/client relations. Make sure the client knows that the actual charge is. You may have to look it up.

3) How much is the case worth? Sort of fits in which #2. You can charge a lot more for a murder than a Possession WITS. Trafficking is just a bigger charge. You're gonna have to spend time on these cases (opportunity cost) and probably aren't going to/won't withdraw (you don't want to get a rep. for a dude who withdraws) so weigh against the opportunity cost.

4) *Most important* is the client serious/can they pay? First question after asking what they're charge with: are they out on bond? If not, do they plan to post bond? If yes, this means they must have some residual funds, esp. if it's a bigger case with a bigger bond. If it's some crappy Poss WITS with a low bond and they can't even post that they probably can't afford you. Ask if they have funds/if they have assets. No, your motorcycle/crappy Buick is not an asset. Property? Yeah probably. Family with cash? Even better. You do NOT want to put your name on any pleadings or do ANY work until you get the retainer. An atty. I knew though did get an old 80s Mercedes as payment though, which was sweet, though not want you want to get paid with usually.

5) Do you have good client rapport/can you trust your client/is your client off his rocker. You want someone who is easy to work with. This is important. Also, you don't want your client to hold back and drop any unanticipated bombs on you later. Some clients are more like professional criminals and know the game. However, some have VERY unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve and what you can actually do/file. You want to trust the client and the client to trust you. Satisfied customers are repeat customers (and not necessarily in crim either - your client gets hit with a DUI, but you don't do that, so you refer it; networking!) and bring in new business.


Withdraws?

Oh, one more question - you ever hear of a defense attorney getting fucked up by a client for loosing a case or is that the stuff of myth?

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:01 pm

Veyron wrote:
Grizz wrote:Basically, here is a general checklist you want when screening a client:

1) Where is the client held? If it's gonna be a pain in the ass to go see the client in jail or to actually go to court, you don't want to do that. Obviously exceptions (some Sicilian is payng big bucks), but you don't want to have to drive 3 hrs. to go visit your client and appear in court for his robbery charge. Client won't pay for it, and you don't want to.

2) What is the charge? Depending on what else you got going on, maybe you want to throw the misdemeanors back. Possession? Yawn. However, if you possess enough, you can get hit with the trafficking charge. Now that's something worth spending time on. Then again, if this guy is repeat business, go ahead and take it for the repeat business/client relations. Make sure the client knows that the actual charge is. You may have to look it up.

3) How much is the case worth? Sort of fits in which #2. You can charge a lot more for a murder than a Possession WITS. Trafficking is just a bigger charge. You're gonna have to spend time on these cases (opportunity cost) and probably aren't going to/won't withdraw (you don't want to get a rep. for a dude who withdraws) so weigh against the opportunity cost.

4) *Most important* is the client serious/can they pay? First question after asking what they're charge with: are they out on bond? If not, do they plan to post bond? If yes, this means they must have some residual funds, esp. if it's a bigger case with a bigger bond. If it's some crappy Poss WITS with a low bond and they can't even post that they probably can't afford you. Ask if they have funds/if they have assets. No, your motorcycle/crappy Buick is not an asset. Property? Yeah probably. Family with cash? Even better. You do NOT want to put your name on any pleadings or do ANY work until you get the retainer. An atty. I knew though did get an old 80s Mercedes as payment though, which was sweet, though not want you want to get paid with usually.

5) Do you have good client rapport/can you trust your client/is your client off his rocker. You want someone who is easy to work with. This is important. Also, you don't want your client to hold back and drop any unanticipated bombs on you later. Some clients are more like professional criminals and know the game. However, some have VERY unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve and what you can actually do/file. You want to trust the client and the client to trust you. Satisfied customers are repeat customers (and not necessarily in crim either - your client gets hit with a DUI, but you don't do that, so you refer it; networking!) and bring in new business.


Withdraws?

Oh, one more question - you ever hear of a defense attorney getting fucked up by a client for loosing a case or is that the stuff of myth?


Withdraw = get off the case

As in hurt or killed? No. You client may be pissed, but that's why trust is so important. You want your client to feel like you did the best you could under the circumstances and that he got an acceptable result for his money.

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:24 pm

Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:
Grizz wrote:Basically, here is a general checklist you want when screening a client:

1) Where is the client held? If it's gonna be a pain in the ass to go see the client in jail or to actually go to court, you don't want to do that. Obviously exceptions (some Sicilian is payng big bucks), but you don't want to have to drive 3 hrs. to go visit your client and appear in court for his robbery charge. Client won't pay for it, and you don't want to.

2) What is the charge? Depending on what else you got going on, maybe you want to throw the misdemeanors back. Possession? Yawn. However, if you possess enough, you can get hit with the trafficking charge. Now that's something worth spending time on. Then again, if this guy is repeat business, go ahead and take it for the repeat business/client relations. Make sure the client knows that the actual charge is. You may have to look it up.

3) How much is the case worth? Sort of fits in which #2. You can charge a lot more for a murder than a Possession WITS. Trafficking is just a bigger charge. You're gonna have to spend time on these cases (opportunity cost) and probably aren't going to/won't withdraw (you don't want to get a rep. for a dude who withdraws) so weigh against the opportunity cost.

4) *Most important* is the client serious/can they pay? First question after asking what they're charge with: are they out on bond? If not, do they plan to post bond? If yes, this means they must have some residual funds, esp. if it's a bigger case with a bigger bond. If it's some crappy Poss WITS with a low bond and they can't even post that they probably can't afford you. Ask if they have funds/if they have assets. No, your motorcycle/crappy Buick is not an asset. Property? Yeah probably. Family with cash? Even better. You do NOT want to put your name on any pleadings or do ANY work until you get the retainer. An atty. I knew though did get an old 80s Mercedes as payment though, which was sweet, though not want you want to get paid with usually.

5) Do you have good client rapport/can you trust your client/is your client off his rocker. You want someone who is easy to work with. This is important. Also, you don't want your client to hold back and drop any unanticipated bombs on you later. Some clients are more like professional criminals and know the game. However, some have VERY unrealistic expectations about what you can achieve and what you can actually do/file. You want to trust the client and the client to trust you. Satisfied customers are repeat customers (and not necessarily in crim either - your client gets hit with a DUI, but you don't do that, so you refer it; networking!) and bring in new business.


Withdraws?

Oh, one more question - you ever hear of a defense attorney getting fucked up by a client for loosing a case or is that the stuff of myth?


Withdraw = get off the case

As in hurt or killed? No. You client may be pissed, but that's why trust is so important. You want your client to feel like you did the best you could under the circumstances and that he got an acceptable result for his money.


So basically, its ok to withdraw if they don't pay but otherwise no?

mrloblaw
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby mrloblaw » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:32 pm

Veyron wrote:So basically, its ok to withdraw if they don't pay but otherwise no?


Have you taken Professional Responsibility/Ethics/Whatever they call it at your school yet? There are quite a few rules on termination of the attorney/client relationship.

I think Grizz's advice on making sure you get most of the money up front on a flat-fee basis sidesteps that landmine quite nicely.

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:34 pm

Veyron wrote:So basically, its ok to withdraw if they don't pay but otherwise no?

There are limited circumstances under which one can withdraw usually. Check you PR and state/local rules.

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Veyron
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Veyron » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:35 pm

Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:So basically, its ok to withdraw if they don't pay but otherwise no?

There are limited circumstances under which one can withdraw usually. Check you PR and state/local rules.


Not talking about the rules. I mean in terms of business rep.

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Grizz
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby Grizz » Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:38 pm

Veyron wrote:
Grizz wrote:
Veyron wrote:So basically, its ok to withdraw if they don't pay but otherwise no?

There are limited circumstances under which one can withdraw usually. Check you PR and state/local rules.


Not talking about the rules. I mean in terms of business rep.

It's bad to be viewed as someone who withdraws, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Thats why it's important to screen properly up front to minimize future problems.

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kalvano
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Re: Anyone on this site do PRIVATE criminal defense

Postby kalvano » Wed Oct 05, 2011 9:59 am

Also, I don't know how it works in other places, but here in Dallas, most of the criminal defense attorneys also do court-appointed stuff. In fact, for felonies, the court-appointed attorney is likely to be the guy who would charge thousands if you hired him. They told me they like it because it's much easier to get paid, and at the felony level, pays pretty well. For the really good attorneys, it will never replace their own private practice, but you can supplement quite nicely. They are allowed to take a set fee for a case, or bill by the hour at a set rate if it takes a long time.

And if you get approved for the big cases, like capital murder, then that's serious scratch. Upwards of $100K to $150K.




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