Originally Posted by TGPlastic
If you entertain the idea of doing low level criminal work, you must do this stuff first so as not to fuck it up:
1. Watch a few day's worth of local criminal dockets and learn the customary litanies (advisement of rights and so forth on the record) that you'll need to make.
2. Read the rules of pro res concerning when representation starts, ends, and what your duties are. How does representation work when grandma pays you to rep junior? Think really hard abut this shit.
3. Create a written fee agreement based on models you find in the law library. Get motherfuckers to sign it before you start lawyering.
4. Then get money up front. All of it.
5. Don't promise shit about the outcome of court shit.
6. Establish a good system for keeping your case files.
7. Look for conflicts of interest and do not put yourself in a conflict situation that wasn't or can't be waived.
8. Handle money with terrific care and in precise accord with the rules. Fucking this up is how you get disbarred.
9. Make sure you do not rely on your client's version of the facts of his case or on his recollection of his criminal record.
10. Always talk to the cops who did the arrest. Be sure to tell them you think your client is an asshole.
11. Act like you know everything and everyone at all times.
PS I had a client go down for 6 years today on an assault! He actually drove to court and walked in the front door a free man. He left by the back door, wearing cuffs. My original guess was that his was a probation case. I did everything right. Judge got it wrong. What made it OK is that I was not late for my 2pm squash court reservation.
All very good advice... I kind of assumed Astan knew much of these "little" (yet incredibly important) things. I think numbers 2, 6, and 8 are probably the most important of that list, yet often overlooked, especially for a lawyer trying to go the independent route. I might also add that one should closely read their state's professional insurance laws. I believe some states mandate legal malpractice insurance, though I could be wrong (my state doesn't).
In any event, after doing death penalty appellate work, a lot of the low-level criminal stuff doesn't really excite me. I did that as a small source of income after I graduated without a job (despite being in the top 10% of my class, law review editor-in-chief, interning with a federal judge...
) and moved back in with my parents to save money while I tried to make more connections and massage the ones I already had. I just took referrals from local solo practitioners who had their hands full, as well as hung around municipal court watching proceedings and meeting people. I did a few favors in family court, too, which was kind of interesting. Uncontested divorces, things like that.