Your Friend's Attorney

The reality of working as a criminal defense attorney means you will encounter clients who will have simply unrealistic expectations at what can be achieved with their case.  Often favorable outcomes are achieved, but it may not have been done within the requisite amount of time that some may have wanted.  Some people get frustrated at their attorney merely because they have to show up for court, even though this is not something that is EVER within their power to prevent or authorize.  Believe me, if I could keep my clients from having to appear at court, I would.  I realize that most people have jobs they need to attend, and showing up for routine court appearances can hinder their work performance and productivity.   

The fact that that we, as attorneys, are not magicians, is sometimes difficult for many clients to comprehend.  On occasion I hear from some clients who loved to make clear how the facts of their friend’s case was far worse than the facts of their own case, and love to point out that their friend’s attorney was able to receive a very favorable deal.

Whenever this situation occurs, I always think to myself, "then why didn’t you hire your friend's attorney?"  The reality is, however, that "jail-house" attorneys (people who have been through the criminal process before), often have no clue as to how or why the attorney was able to obtain certain results.  Most of the time, in fact, I find that these people are simply exaggerating. After thinking about it, I think the psychology is that everyone wants to have the best attorney, the best accountant, etc., so they tend to exaggerate, embellish, or even outright lie. 

The truth is that sometimes results are achieved through pure luck (and not via a certain skill-set or talent level possessed by the attorney).  When this happens, it is not something that the attorney likes to divulge to the client after the successful disposition of the case.  Many times, there was a fact that the friend failed to convey that helped determine the overall course of the case.  It may have been a different judge, a different prosecutor, a different police officer, a different court, etc., that helped decide the successful outcome. It may have even been through the sheer laziness on behalf of the prosecutor, or it may have been achieved simply by the police officer not having the time to show up for court.  Prosecutors and police officers often have an agenda that does not always make perfect sense.  It may be the case that they were focused on another, more pressing case, and didn’t have the time to devote to ensuring a conviction on another.  They may have even had knowledge that they were leaving the court soon for a promotion (or even the DA’s office altogether), and therefore cared very little about the current cases on their docket.  Even more arbitrary,  a  particular prosecutor may agree to being generous on a case simply because they may have a vacation planned with family they don't want to have to miss.

The bottom line is that one should put very little merit into what others say their attorneys were able to achieve with their case.  Most of the time they using selective memory and are exaggerating and/or embellishing how the case really transpired.  The reality is that the facts of every case are different, and every situation is unique.  Therefore, trust that your attorney is doing their job and don’t listen to other "jail-house" attorneys.  And if you don’t believe this piece of advice, then go and hire the "magic attorney" your friend used.