Recently, a number of social introductions have had me explaining what kind of Lawyer I am, meaning the kind of work that I do. No one asks a polite question like that and hopes for a long, boring answer. Accordingly, I have been forced to generally define myself as a “Criminal Attorney” and then quickly point out the things I don’t do, in order to quickly “explain” myself. I do not, for example, handle rape or murder cases. I have a rather specialized Practice. I only handle Criminal and DUI cases in the Detroit-area, meaning Wayne, Oakland and Macomb Counties. Moreover, I stick to DUI’s and cases like drug possession, suspended and revoked license charges, embezzlement and indecent exposure charges, as well as probation violations. This means I have decades of experience handling the same kinds of cases in the same group of local Courts, working with the same Prosecutors and appearing in front of the same Judges.
This allows me to charge my Fees in exchange for providing services based upon twenty-plus years of related, meaning relevant, experience. When you think about it, anything less and you’re just paying your Lawyer’s tuition. I’ve been fortunate to cultivate a practice that keeps me busy enough to be able to only have to work within my comfort zone, and years ago I marked that off as the kinds of cases I have handled regularly and that I like doing. I like handling embezzlement and indecent exposure cases; I don’t feel the same way about domestic violence cases.
Does this mean that I don’t handle “other” kinds of criminal cases? Of course not! Not too long ago, for example, I was called upon to represent a college-bound high school senior who, along with a few fellow teammates from his school, found himself running by some local railroad tracks. Well, “boys will be boys,” as the saying goes. Taking a break from their running, these young guys got the idea that if a train cuts a penny in half rather cleanly, it could probably cut a few other things in half, as well. Looking around, they found a few things that seemed, at least at the moment, way more interesting than a penny, like a discarded car tire and some other debris near the tracks. Clearly thinking more like the kids they were rather than the adults they’d eventually become, they lined up some “stuff” on the tracks to see what would happen when the train ran it over. When they heard a train approaching, they hid nearby.
As he approached, the train conductor was afraid the train could be derailed as it ran over all the debris the boys had placed on the tracks. Unfortunately, by the time he saw it, there was no way to avoid running over it. He radioed ahead for the Police, who showed up, rounded up the boys, and charged them with Felonies, including attempting to derail a train. As serious as the consequences might have been, none of these boys, including my Client, ever thought about doing such a thing (which, of course, was part of the problem).
I was contacted by the family and hired to represent their son. I managed to keep the whole thing completely off of his Record, and about 9 months after the case began, it was closed out and my all-the-wiser Client headed off to college, conviction-free and no longer on Probation.
The “attempted derailment” charge in that case was a first for the Judge, who has been on the bench a long time, and first for the Prosecutor, who has been at his job for over 20 years, as well a first for me. Even so, this case fell precisely within my range of experience, even though the exact charge is rarely ever brought. My point is that while it did not fall precisely within the description of the kinds of cases I regularly handle, it was something squarely within the scope of my broader experience and well within my “comfort zone.”
By contrast, I’ve never handled a murder case, and nothing about it would fall anywhere near the kind of work I’ve done. In that regard, I’ve handled plenty of domestic violence cases in the past, but prefer not to do so anymore. That might sound somewhat strange, but it’s rather simple. I understand that sometimes, a person can become so overwhelmed that it can lead him or her to begin taking money, or something valuable from an employer. Similarly, I know that the frustrations of life can lead to some people “acting out” in a way that ultimately results in some kind of indecent exposure charge. The numerous elements or dimensions that make up these cases are not disagreeable to me. A domestic violence case, however, always involves either a Defendant who claims he or she didn’t do it, or a victim who either now wants to recant, or somehow “drop” the charges. From my perspective, domestic violence cases are incredibly frustrating. They are miserable situations that the parties thereafter just want to “go away,” but the system is set up in a way where that rarely happens. DUI, suspended license embezzlement and indecent exposure and drug charges fall within my comfort zone. Murder, rape and even domestic violence charges don’t.
I am rather fortunate that I don’t have to take cases outside of my comfort zone. When looking for a lawyer, you should use the same standard, and hire a Lawyer who is in your “comfort zone.” You need to like and trust the Lawyer that you’re going to hire. One of the biggest misconceptions people have is that if some well-known Lawyer can win a murder case, he or she can surely do well in a DUI or “lesser” matter. That’s no more true than saying if a Cardiac Surgeon can save the life of a person who was about to die, surely he or she can handle replacing a knee, or a hip. I specifically concentrate in what I do, and that defines who I am as a Lawyer. The term “Criminal Lawyer” is broad. There are a lot of Laws, the violation of which is a crime. I’ve picked those that I like handling, and I do particularly well at handling them.
If you’re looking for a Lawyer, you should be looking for an experienced Lawyer. You should read what the various candidates for your money have written. You should compare, and ask questions, if you have any. You should not simply respond to “call me” advertisements, or meaningless and worn out slogans like, “tough” or “aggressive.” You should respond to those Lawyers who have marked out a comfort zone that includes your type of charge, and then make sure that lawyer (meaning his or her personality) falls within your comfort zone. As much as a Lawyer can be defined by what he or she does and does not do, when a person walks into Court, they are, to a certain extent, likewise characterized, if not defined, by the lawyer, or kind of lawyer did or did not hire.
The bottom line to any such consideration is always to do your homework, and choose wisely.