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  • Writer's pictureLisa Jensen

The Audacity of Ads

I've got a challenge for ya.

Google 'attorney' or 'lawyer' and then your city. Pick one of the top couple of names that pops up. Now, go to that attorney's website and read how they describe themselves.

I bet you the lawyer will fall into at least one of the four following categories:

(1) The AGGRESSIVE fighter: I will violently KABOOM the shit out of your case until it is not only MEGA dismissed but the file actually EXPLODES with FIRE because of what a badass I am *eagle screech that is actually a peregrine falcon*

(2) The former DA/police officer insider: I know the system from the inside because I am still friends with some of the prosecutors and I probably went to your prosecutor's baby shower or something so that means I know exactly how to beat them at their own game and am now ready to use this manipulation to my benefit with the added bonus of not being invited to any more baby showers in exchange for your sum of money

(3) The Wise And Experienced Sage: I have been practicing law for X number of years, I repeat, X number of years. Let me repeat that number one more time. This number implies heavily that I must have so much more experience than anyone else and that I am therefore right about the things I say. In fact, the number of years I have practiced law without ever being permanently disbarred is the most important factor in hiring a lawyer

(4) The Worker Bee: I will put so much time and energy into your case. I will answer your drunk dial at 4am. I will call a meeting with your dog to discuss whether they are a potential witness in your case. I will file 500 motions, and even if none of them are granted, you have to admit that's a lot of work which makes me a good lawyer for working so hard. I must really care about you, or hate trees because that's a lot of paper

This is ALL in the name of convincing you, the anxious person trying to seek legal help, that this person is the right one to give your money to. But none of these things make for a particularly talented or skilled lawyer.

Here's what you might actually want to care about:

  • Is this attorney knowledgeable about the kind of case I'm facing? Have they dealt with similar cases in the past? Do they have trial experience? Have they done a trial with similar charges to what I'm facing?

  • Is this attorney someone I think I can build a rapport with? Will they genuinely listen to what my priorities are, and will I be able to trust them when they give me feedback and advice?

Pay attention to how your potential attorney behaves in the consultation. This is the person that will be standing in court as your representative. Are they well-spoken? Do they make eye contact with you? Do they make a good impression? You probably want a confident lawyer, but you don't necessarily want splashy antics that won't impress a judge or a jury. Attorneys with credibility and good experience get better results calmly sitting in a chair than your "aggressive defender" will get by pounding on a table.

You might think that that former DA can just take your prosecutor out to lunch and get your case dumped, but (1) that's not really how it works and (2) while some former DAs make skilled defense attorneys, that shouldn't automatically qualify them in your eyes.

And it's not just the years, it's what the attorney has done in that time. Some attorneys are more proactive than others in their professional development - whether that be attending seminars, taking the time to research issues that come up, paying attention to all the changes in the law, specializing, etc. There's also the type of experience that matters.

Someone might say they have been practicing for 35 years and have 'extensive trial experience.' You get in to the meeting with them and that turns out they have done about 8 trials. You might say okay, let's see what else is out there. Another attorney has only 8 years experience, but has done about 25 trials. Sounds a little better. But now lets say the guy with 8 trials included a couple of very serious cases including a death penalty murder case. See how complicated that gets? And if you're dealing with a DUI, you might not care whether your attorney has tried a death penalty case or not, you just want to make sure they know their DUI's.

And finally, volume of work does not equal quality of work. On Twitter, @davygreenberg put it perfectly: "If I do a job in 30 minutes, it's because I spent 10 years learning how to do that in 30 minutes. You owe me for the years, not the minutes." If you hire an experienced attorney, they will likely have effective strategies for fighting your case. But what they aren't doing is filing things for the sake of filing them so that it looks like they are working hard. If an attorney's claim to fame is how much voluminous work they do on every single case, that just tells you they are sort of mindlessly pushing paper around as opposed to honing in on the real issues in their cases.

So to close, just be wary of the qualities that are advertised to you. It may or may not be what you're actually looking for.

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We might be better off if we didn't make them. This is undoubtedly true in the world of law. A good prosecutor should never make an assumption that someone who "seems" guilty, is in fact guilty. The s


Oct 08, 2021

After seeing your post in this morning's A News Cafe, I looked you up. Your CV is rock solid. What I was concerned about, though, is how long you've been practicing in this county. In the 1980s, before a long career in organized labor, I was one of the felony master calendar clerks working for two now retired Shasta Superior Court judges, one of whom has died. After having done legal support work in Southern California for years where counsel from just about anywhere are respected in Superior Court, I got pretty pissed off when I saw competent counsel from outside the county get "homered" by xenophobic juries. I also wondered over the years--given that organized labor work can sometimes…

Lisa Jensen
Lisa Jensen
Oct 08, 2021
Replying to

I am so flattered! Hopefully you never end up needing my kind of help, but if you ever do, I’m a call away. Thank you.

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