Sunday, March 4, 2012

How a Mediocre Lawyer Can Convince Others They are a Great Lawyer

Thanks to my peers, I have been named in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012.  Specifically, I was listed in the DUI section.  There aren’t a lot of lawyers under 40 years old in this particular publication (the March issue, BTW).  So, it is truly an honor.  I appreciate all of you who voted for me.

On a related note, I’m going to teach you how a mediocre lawyer can convince others that they are a great lawyer.  This is a crucial skill to learn if you want to be in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers, but don’t actually belong there.  So, without further adieu, here are the ways a mediocre lawyer can convince others that they are a great lawyer:

1) Client Expectation Management.  This is extremely important.  Let’s say a guy walks into your office with a new DUI charge.  He has a clean record, and a BAC of only .085.  From the looks of the citation, the stop was legal, and you have no reason to believe that the Standardized Field Sobriety Tests were performed in any way other than in conformity to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration guidelines.  You automatically think you can probably get this guy diversion.  There are 2 ways to handle the conversation.
            A) Tell him only part of the truth.  Tell him you think he can get diversion.  If you handle the conversation this way, the client just shows up at the courthouse - you get him diversion - and he walks away thinking he got what he deserved.  He thinks he got an OK result.
            B) Tell him the whole truth.  Tell him that he is facing up to 45 days in jail and a fine of up to $500, a license suspension of up to 6 months, court costs, and Alcohol Drug Education Classes.  Tell him that you cannot give him an accurate assessment of what should be done in his case until you review his citation, the police report, any witness statements, and the in-car video (if it exists).  Only then you will be able to speak intelligently about his case.  But you’ve handled many DUIs before and that you have been able to get favorable results in the past
            [Let’s assume you later determine that there are no glaring constitutional issues in his case].  If you handle the conversation this way, he shows up at the courthouse - you get him diversion - and he walks away thinking he got an amazing result.

            If you fail to manage a client’s expectations, you can get them a good result – but they believe it isn’t a good result at all.  You have simply MET their expectations.  But if you inform the client of the full breadth of punishment associated with the crime, and temper their expectations, you can get them a good result and have the client walking away thinking the result was phenomenal.  Not expected.  Happier clients will boost your reputation.  And you don’t have to get better results to have happier clients, if you do proper client expectation management.

2) Work Harder.  Working harder is not nearly as important as client expectation management.  Seriously.  But it is pretty important, especially if you are like me and you aren’t as smart as the other guys named in Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012.  If you’re like me, you have to work harder to keep up with the really smart guys.
            Look at the Law.  Immediately get a copy of all of the statutes that your client is charged with violating.  Read them.  That sounds like a smart aleck comment, but it really isn’t.  We get “comfortable” as criminal defense lawyers, and we think we know the statutes.  So we stop reading them.  That’s a mistake.  What happens when you forget about a subsection?  Or when the law changes, like it does constantly.  Getting comfortable is dangerous for any lawyer.
            Review all of the Evidence.  Don’t walk into court cold.  This sounds like pretty basic advice, and it is.  But you’d be surprised at the amount of lawyers who walk into court and read the citation and police report for the first time, right before they walk into court.
            Make Motions.  If you can find even the slightest glimmer of hope on a constitutional issue, make a motion to dismiss the case, and in the alternative, to suppress evidence.  And file the motion with the court.  Don’t make oral motions.  This shows your client that you are actually DOING WORK.  I’ve found that the more paperwork clients get, the happier they are.
            Have Hearings.  Put the cops under oath, and cross examine them.  Maybe you’ll actually get a case or 2 dismissed, which is always great.  Even if it doesn’t work for this particular case, you have showed the client that you actually give a damn, and are willing to fight for them.  When you present them with the possibility of a guilty plea, they’ll understand that you are still on their side.
          Don't be Afraid to Try Cases.  This is something that is much easier said than done.  All I can tell you is that trying cases in front of a jury does a lot for your professional reputation.  It shows prosecutors you mean business.  It shows clients you are willing to fight for them.  And (shock) you might actually win some!  If you get a client a Not Guilty verdict, they will be telling everyone about you and your legal prowess, whether you deserve it or not.

3) Charge What You are Worth.  If you have done the above things, don’t dilute your brand.  If a lawyer takes $300 for a DUI case, the word will get around.  Now, if you don’t do DUI work and you just want to “dabble” in the genre every so often, then fine.  Charge whatever you can get.  But if you actually have experience, and you actually do good work, why would you charge an amount that isn’t reflective of your talents?  Remember the old adage, “You get what you pay for.”  People truly believe that.

            I’m sure there are other ways a mediocre lawyer can convince other people that they are a great lawyer.  If any of you have any other suggestions, please feel free to share.  I hope this has been informative.

            If you have been charged with a DUI in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Elizabethtown, or the surrounding areas, you should have a good lawyer on your side.  Why not one of Louisville Magazine’s Top Lawyers of 2012?  You deserve someone who understands that your case is serious.  You deserve someone who will fight for your Constitutional rights.  Call the Louisville DUI lawyers at Simms & Reed, PLLC.  Call 502.618.4949 today for a free consultation.

Results.  As Fast as the Law will Allow.

Simms & Reed, PLLC.

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