Getting to “Yes” Is Much Harder After “No”
There’s an old joke about a mechanic’s shop that had a sign notifying customers the rates were higher on cars if the customer had worked (or tried to work) on the car ahead of time. People who fix problems for a living, like lawyers and mechanics, know what issues to address and what sequence needs to be followed in addressing the issues. These professionals move situations from problem status to solution status for a living. Nobody brings their car into the mechanic’s shop because it’s running great. Similarly, nobody hires a defense lawyer because everything’s fine and he (or she) is having a great day.
Both lawyers and mechanics charge clients/customers largely on the basis of their time. For this reason, clients/customers will sometimes try to avoid retaining a professional until the situation has become unmanageable. I am surprised at the frequency with which the client (and often his/her family) contributes to moving the situation into “unmanageable status” because they simply did not want to hire a lawyer ten days prior. I have encountered this dynamic time and again in my practice. This phenomenon occurs in cases big and small.
A husband is charged with a criminal traffic offense, the Office of the State Attorney won’t offer a diversionary program in this class of traffic offense. The wife will call and ask the prosecutor to put her husband in this program multiple times before contacting me. When the couple comes in and explains the situation I am presented with a much more serious case – because of the prior denial(s). I am being asked to chase “Yes” after the couple has already received a “No”. I have a working relationship with this prosecutor and we will eventually get to “Yes”. However the case will take months to resolve instead of days which it would have been the norm. The end result is the same for the client but the time (and fee) involved certainly is not.
Prisoners are famous for believing that they possess top notch legal skills. Prisoners will file motions addressing complex sentencing issues and receive a denial. Following the denial, mom or Mrs. will invariably contact me and ask me to research the factual background of the case. Once again, the level of work required and time involved in the case has been greatly increased because the attorney now must try and turn “No” into a “Yes”. While the sentencing issue may be subject to valid challenge, the prisoner is generally confined to the argument made at the trial court. These cases are usually either unworkable or in need of exponentially more work than what presented originally.
Decision makers like judges, prosecutors, police officers and probation officers generally like to stick to their positions. There is an inertia involved in answering a question or request. Once the initial answer has been put forth; there is a material reluctance to change the answer. This reluctance persists regardless of the facts underlying the situation. The attorney has years of dealing with identical or similar issues. The attorney also generally has a working relationship with the players involved: judge, prosecutor, executive officer, etc….
The reality is that the defense attorney has the background knowledge and personal familiarity to obtain what the client desires. The (prospective) client generally possesses neither of these two important tools.
Getting to “Yes” following a “No” is an unenviable task which I check for ahead of almost every potential client consultation. While I can sometimes work through the prior denial, sometimes it is simply too difficult. Replacing a transmission with bolt heads rounded by the vehicle owner will cost more at the mechanic’s shop. Achieving a “Yes” following “No” will generally bring an increased fee quote from any experienced criminal defense lawyer.