Criminal Defense

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Saul Goodman
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Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:27 am

Recently gone solo and noticed there was not a Criminal Defense thread. Any other Constitutional Protectionists out there?

omegaweapon
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by omegaweapon » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:01 am

Do you and Slippin Jimmy need to fight now?

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HenryHankPalmer
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by HenryHankPalmer » Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:32 pm

Saul Goodman wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:27 am
Recently gone solo and noticed there was not a Criminal Defense thread. Any other Constitutional Protectionists out there?
1. What did you do before going solo?

2. Is your practice mostly in state court or do you handle federal stuff too?

3. How much trial experience do you have?

4. What is your favorite part about criminal defense practice?

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Kümmel
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Kümmel » Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:06 pm

What are your fees? Hourly? Flat rate?

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:42 pm

HenryHankPalmer wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 1:32 pm
Saul Goodman wrote:
Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:27 am
Recently gone solo and noticed there was not a Criminal Defense thread. Any other Constitutional Protectionists out there?
1. What did you do before going solo?

2. Is your practice mostly in state court or do you handle federal stuff too?

3. How much trial experience do you have?

4. What is your favorite part about criminal defense practice?
1. Before going solo I worked at a small three attorney firm doing criminal defense and family law. Though my caseload was primarily criminal defense, I did quite a bit of family and hated it. Ultimately, the partners and I did not see eye to eye on how the firm should be run from a business standpoint so we came to an amicable split. I still keep in touch with the main partner we have a solid relationship but I LOVE solo life! Before that I was an Assistant State Atty for 6 months. The pay was awful and as soon as I got a more lucrative opportunity, I jumped ship. No regrets at all.

2. I have only done and probably will only do Criminal Defense in State Court. I'm just more familiar with the process in State Court though I am licensed to practice in fed court as well. Maybe if a lucrative enough case comes along that will change but for now I only practice in State court.

3. I have 7 trials under my belt ranging from Poss of Marijuana in Juvy Court (Where it's only bench trials) to DUI to Grand Theft Auto with a solid mix of jury and bench trials. It's very rare in private practice to go to trial but there's a good amount of motion practice. All of the trials happened during my time at the State.

4. My fav part of being a Criminal Defense Attorney always comes at the end when after a long hard fight of negotiating the best deal possible, my client sincerely thanks me for the job I've done and knows that I truly did all I could to get them the best deal possible. So making that difference in someone's life, to have them know that I was in their corner when they needed it most and got them the best outcome possible, is what is most rewarding. Some clients are unappreciative but for the most part, my clients are very grateful and that feeling of a job well done in protecting someone's liberty is amazing!

** Disclaimer: My Criminal Defense caseload is now very small. I have 9 open cases at this time though I'm always looking for more. What has kept my practice afloat and profitable has been the rise in ADA Accessibility Claims. I do both plaintiff and defense work in that arena and it has been quite lucrative and much more laid back than criminal practice. Though I am a criminal defense atty at heart and by trade, the criminal defense market is very tough to break into and is a volume business.**

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:58 pm

Kümmel wrote:
Sun Mar 25, 2018 4:06 pm
What are your fees? Hourly? Flat rate?
I pretty much only do flat fee but at times I'll do what is becoming known as "tier fee." For example, Client with a DUI comes into my office. I'll charge $4,000 (hypothetically) to get started and work up a reasonable plea deal. If client decides to go to trial, I set it out far enough to where client has time to pay me another $4,000 about a month before trial because then it's a ton more work to do in terms of getting ready to cross the State's witnesses, perfect an opening and closing argument, and coach up my client. If client can't pay in time, and I always make sure this is in the retainer agreement, I reserve the right to withdraw.

In terms of fees, it really depends on multiple factors. For example......

If it's a first time Poss of Marijuana and client's record is squeaky clean, I'll do it for $800 because I know that it will be pretty easy to resolve within a month or two and I can get a good plea deal.

But, if this is client's 4th Poss of Marijuana charge in 18 months, I know it's going to be much harder to defend and get a favorable deal so I'll probably have to drag the case out longer than I want to and potentially prepare for a Motion to Suppress, etc...... much more work involved here so I'd probably charge $2,000 or so.... Also, felonies are much more expensive. I start at $6,000 for low level felonies for reference.

There's also something to be said about "sizing up" a potential client. If you know they make too much money to qualify for a Public Defender, you have the ability to quote a little more than usual though you have to be careful because you do not want to "quote them out the door" it's a skill that comes with time... I know some attorneys that do payment plans but I never do. I usually require full payment up front unless there is a rare instance where I'll take the "tier fee" I talked about earlier but I have only done that a handful of times when the case was 50/50 on whether or not it was going to trial. Usually at the start of the case you can tell if it's something worth taking to trial or not.

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bikeflip
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by bikeflip » Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:33 pm

Give us a breakdown of your expenses. How do you find clients?

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Wed Apr 04, 2018 7:35 am

bikeflip wrote:
Tue Apr 03, 2018 10:33 pm
Give us a breakdown of your expenses. How do you find clients?
Luckily with the advancement of technology, I've been able to keep my overhead pretty low. I have a virtual office that I pay $100 a month for and if I need meeting space, they give me a conference room I can rent out for $25 per hr. That's probably my biggest expense on the criminal def practice side. Other than that, the most expensive things are gas to get to and from the courthouse since I live half hr away, office supplies like paper and ink for my home office where I mainly work out of, business credit card payments and the like. I have one support staff "employee" who is my retired mother. Without her it'd be a lot harder to keep track of everything. She's my paralegal and secretary and I don't really pay her (but I'll send on her on a cruise every few months or something as a thank you). She is really only helping me because retirement was boring her to death so I gave her the "job" as a favor but it's worked out well for the both of us. If I had to pay an employee a monthly salary it would probably hurt and be the biggest monthly expense.

I have found that word of mouth is the best client getter. I also do a few speaking engagements each quarter to drum up business at various organizations and use social media as an advertising tool. Thankfully I haven't had to pay for any advertising thus far. It's all about keeping your overhead as low as possible in this business to remain profitable. A 30 year practicing attorney once told me "Keep it small, keep it all" and I've kind of took that to heart.

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Easy-E
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Easy-E » Wed Apr 04, 2018 3:55 pm

What state?

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bikeflip
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by bikeflip » Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:43 pm

Thanks man. What software do you use? I’m also a solo crim defense atty who was a former DA, and I’m still streamlining stuff.

So far I’m only using LawPay, MileIQ, and CaseMaker/LexisMichie. I need to add an accounting software because I did a shit job of tracking expenses last yr and get to pay too much in taxes and and a practice management software. Probably gonna get QuickBooks for expenses and looking at PracticePanther or Clio for practice management software. File folders are working fine because my client base is small like yours at the moment, but I’m getting a couple referrals a week and need something more robust.

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Thu Apr 05, 2018 8:36 am

Easy-E wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 3:55 pm
What state?
Florida

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Thu Apr 05, 2018 8:41 am

bikeflip wrote:
Wed Apr 04, 2018 4:43 pm
Thanks man. What software do you use? I’m also a solo crim defense atty who was a former DA, and I’m still streamlining stuff.

So far I’m only using LawPay, MileIQ, and CaseMaker/LexisMichie. I need to add an accounting software because I did a shit job of tracking expenses last yr and get to pay too much in taxes and and a practice management software. Probably gonna get QuickBooks for expenses and looking at PracticePanther or Clio for practice management software. File folders are working fine because my client base is small like yours at the moment, but I’m getting a couple referrals a week and need something more robust.
I use FastCase for legal research, Venmo for wire transfers though I usually just request cash or check up front. I've been meaning to look into LawPay. If I can make a suggestion, use Wave bookkeeping for the accounting stuff. It's free though not as advanced as quickbooks but it lets you reconcile your accounts at the end of each month and keeps track of your spending. I just send the reconciliation statements to my accountant and it makes it easy for her to calculate how much I'm going to owe in taxes.

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Caesar
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Caesar » Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:53 pm

Is Avvo useful at all?

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:07 pm

Caesar wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:53 pm
Is Avvo useful at all?
No. It sucks imo.

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kellyfrost
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by kellyfrost » Sat Apr 14, 2018 3:53 pm

Saul Goodman wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:07 pm
Caesar wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:53 pm
Is Avvo useful at all?
No. It sucks imo.
I agree avvo is terrible, but it seems like a lot of criminal defense lawyers in my area use it heavily.

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Saul Goodman
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Saul Goodman » Sun Apr 15, 2018 9:14 am

kellyfrost wrote:
Sat Apr 14, 2018 3:53 pm
Saul Goodman wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 10:07 pm
Caesar wrote:
Fri Apr 06, 2018 3:53 pm
Is Avvo useful at all?
No. It sucks imo.
I agree avvo is terrible, but it seems like a lot of criminal defense lawyers in my area use it heavily.
I've seen a lot of guys put their rating on their websites for advertisement purposes but it's still pretty bad

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kellyfrost
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by kellyfrost » Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:17 am

Are you on any kind of court appointed counsel list so you could rep defendants that the public defenders office has a conflict with? I know a couple criminal defense solos who get steady work from that. The pay rates are low, but it is steady work they appreciate.

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Caesar
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Caesar » Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:34 pm

kellyfrost wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:17 am
Are you on any kind of court appointed counsel list so you could rep defendants that the public defenders office has a conflict with? I know a couple criminal defense solos who get steady work from that. The pay rates are low, but it is steady work they appreciate.
That's what I'm currently doing. Only doing misdemeanors since I just passed the bar.

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kellyfrost
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by kellyfrost » Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:22 pm

Caesar wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:34 pm
kellyfrost wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:17 am
Are you on any kind of court appointed counsel list so you could rep defendants that the public defenders office has a conflict with? I know a couple criminal defense solos who get steady work from that. The pay rates are low, but it is steady work they appreciate.
That's what I'm currently doing. Only doing misdemeanors since I just passed the bar.
How are you liking the work so far? Had any interesting cases?

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Caesar
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Caesar » Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:14 pm

kellyfrost wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:22 pm
Caesar wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:34 pm
kellyfrost wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:17 am
Are you on any kind of court appointed counsel list so you could rep defendants that the public defenders office has a conflict with? I know a couple criminal defense solos who get steady work from that. The pay rates are low, but it is steady work they appreciate.
That's what I'm currently doing. Only doing misdemeanors since I just passed the bar.
How are you liking the work so far? Had any interesting cases?
It's been pretty good so far. Good to get court experience 6 months out of law school but hard since no in my firm does criminal work so it's a little tough to learn some things. Nothing super interesting so far,mostly dwi's, domestic, and shoplifting.

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bikeflip
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by bikeflip » Fri Apr 20, 2018 3:07 pm

Caesar wrote:
Thu Apr 19, 2018 3:14 pm
kellyfrost wrote:
Tue Apr 17, 2018 5:22 pm
Caesar wrote:
Mon Apr 16, 2018 4:34 pm
kellyfrost wrote:
Sun Apr 15, 2018 11:17 am
Are you on any kind of court appointed counsel list so you could rep defendants that the public defenders office has a conflict with? I know a couple criminal defense solos who get steady work from that. The pay rates are low, but it is steady work they appreciate.
That's what I'm currently doing. Only doing misdemeanors since I just passed the bar.
How are you liking the work so far? Had any interesting cases?
It's been pretty good so far. Good to get court experience 6 months out of law school but hard since no in my firm does criminal work so it's a little tough to learn some things. Nothing super interesting so far,mostly dwi's, domestic, and shoplifting.
What resources are you using to get up to speed?

I’m using listservs, more experienced attys, cheap CLE pass, cheapish practice guides, court observations, etc.

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Caesar
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Caesar » Sat Apr 21, 2018 9:31 am

Other attorneys when I have something I can't look up. But for NC the office of indigent services and school of government has a lot of really good resources that are all free so that's been a huge help. Also some court observation never hurts.

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Caesar
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Caesar » Thu Apr 26, 2018 2:24 pm

Our county needs people on the juvenile felony list but I feel like 7 months experience and no juvenile training would make it a bad idea.

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Adso
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by Adso » Fri Apr 27, 2018 11:34 pm

Fellow Constitutional Protectionist here. Well, former. Did a dozen plus trials, including some felonies. Looking to get back in the ring, actually. Miss the interpersonal communication and the rush of the courtroom (even though it makes me vomit from time to time).

howell
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Re: Criminal Defense

Post by howell » Tue May 01, 2018 11:39 am

Former Constitutional Foot Soldier here.

Thanks to Saul for his description of his practice. It's really interesting to see, and a little tempting.

I was a defense counsel in the Air Force for a couple years. For most of the time I did the job, If you told me it would be one of the best jobs I ever had, I would have laughed at you. But, after getting used to the job and also looking back on it, I loved it and wonder why I'm doing anything else. Nothing made the practice of law more real to me than standing next to my client and fighting The Man. It's difficult to imagine other jobs seeming so important.

My main gripes in the Air Force were the government would take cases to court-martial 1) that shouldn't merit a conviction and/or 2) had flimsy evidence. #1 was a problem because most of my clients were stupid kids doing stupid kid things that hardly any stupid kids get nailed for. I have clients with federal convictions for one night's use of a recreational drug like cocaine or marijuana. In one over-charged case, my client only got convicted for negligent dereliction of duty for not handling a phone call from his subordinate correctly. It's not just that we screw up these kids' lives, but we spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) doing it. So many cases could be handled with a simple discharge, but we'll drop $20k on experts and travel 10+ people around the country for a simple trial for something future doctors, lawyers, teachers, etc. are doing down the street every day.

You'd think #2 would be a good thing as a defense counsel, but some of the weak cases scared me more than the strong cases. Often these were sexual assault cases, with a he-said-she-said setup. These are tough cases for everyone involved certainly. But over the past few years, the Air Force had about a 33% conviction rate - and several of those convictions are getting kicked back on appeal. Some of those appeals have been for "factual insufficiency." In a sexual assault case, your client can get convicted so long as the jury believes the crying victim. That's it. So even in a weak case, your client could have a 5-10% chance . . . of years in prison and the sex offender registry. And the "good" outcomes for clients in these cases sometimes involve years of prison before the appellate courts "fix" it or having their career and many other parts of their lives ruined by a 2+ year investigation and traumatizing trial.

I also externed with a public defender's office during law school. That was eye-opening and one of the factors that made me want to do defense work. The military does a lot of things better and some things worse than other jurisdictions.

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