Myths about Attorneys
WRONG - most attorneys, depending on their practice areas, charge for their time - and that includes for initial consultations. You should never take it for granted if any attorney gives free consultations, like me.
2. You cannot afford to hire an attorney.
WRONG! Got a job? Then you can afford ME.
3. You need a "specialist."
WRONG. Attorneys out there who practice solely in one area of the law should not be presumed to know more about that area than any other lawyer, including those who practice in more areas than the one in which you currently need help. We are all required to maintain the same, minimum standard of competency in any areas we practice by attending mandatory continuing legal education courses, by associating ourselves with more experienced attorneys and through on-going self-study. There are a number of reasons why some lawyers only practice in one area - many simply have no experience in any other area besides the one claimed as a specialty. An attorney who practices in more than one area is in fact able to provide you more thorough advice, is better able to plan for contingencies and is more able to provide you assistance in complicated situations which ride the line between two or more areas of legal practice. Think about it.
4. Lawyers have to take pro bono cases (do cases for free).
TRUE, but we do not have to take every case on a pro bono basis that the people who cannot afford to pay us ask us to take for them. State Supreme Court rules of professional conduct mandate that every attorney practicing law in Wisconsin ". . . should aspire to render at least 50 hours of pro bono publico legal services per year." However, what actual percentage of that 50 hours per each year each of us does and what types of cases we take on a pro bono basis is strictly our decision (so long as, over the course of our legal careers, we each do an average of 50 hours per year). For example, I fulfill the requirements by accepting government appointments to represent indigent criminal defendants and by giving out free legal advice to people almost every day. But I do not do any other kinds of legal work for free.
5. Attorneys who are actively practicing law are all ethical.
YOU'D BE SURPRISED at the number of lawyers out there who have been professionally disciplined who are currently in good standing! Before you hire a lawyer to represent you, ask him or her if he or she has ever incurred any formal discipline (either public or private) for unprofessional conduct. Then go look him or her up on google and/or call the State Bar of Wisconsin to inquire about the attorney's past discipline record. If he or she has been disciplined, then you need to strongly reconsider whether you really want that person acting as your representative in court. Just because the attorney was disciplined and served his or her punishment doesn't necessarily guarantee that the attorney is reformed - it would seem that repeat-offenders far outnumber those lawyers who engage in an isolated incident of poor judgment that results in professional discipline. Judges and opposing counsel usually know who among us has engaged in unethical conduct warranting formal, public discipline. That's something else to think about!
6. Lawyers are just in it for the money!
WHO REALLY BELIEVES THAT!? Contrary to popular belief, most lawyers aren't rich - though lawyers make enormous personal and financial sacrifices to be among the top 1% of the American population in terms of education (according to the American Bar Association, practicing lawyers comprise not even half of one percent of the total U.S. population), average annual attorney pay is well under six figures. Of course, people generally want to get paid for their services, and that includes every lawyer I know. Although lawyers do pro-bono work for some clients, they also need to be able to feed their kids, pay their mortgages and clothe themselves. So, if an attorney keeps after you (or even sues you) to pay your bill as agreed, don't think it's because he or she is just about the money. Do you like or want to work for your employer for free? Of course not! I've always said that, were more people to be able to go through what it takes to become a lawyer, I'm sure it would generate much more appreciation among the public for the value of our services. A lot of us hang it up after only a few years of practicing law, becoming disillusioned by the reality of the lower-than-expected income and the thanklessness of some overly-demanding clients. Those of us who hang in there and continue to share our clients' struggles with them to the best of our ability, often enduring lots more stress than most other people, should certainly serve as more than adequate proof that we're not all just in it for the money.
7. Lawyers with a Martindale-Hubbell "AV" rating, or who are selected for "Super Lawyer" lists must be worth every penny they charge.
DON'T BE FOOLED by winners of lawyer popularity contests, such as Martindale-Hubbell's over-rated rating system or attorneys named in "Super Lawyer" publications (more like "Super Expensive Lawyers")! Both types of rating schemes are based primarily on polls sent out to attorneys who then nominate lawyers whose names have been put to them for a vote, or they name lawyers of their own choosing. (I routinely throw such polls that I occasionally receive right in the garbage!) These schemes have been around for a long time, but they have always boiled down to nothing more than popularity contests among lawyers and should not necessarily be given the degree of credibility that their for-profit creators have so cleverly marketed them to have all these years. In fact, you should be very suspicious of hiring a lawyer that other lawyers like so much that they nominate him or her to be the equivalent of a state-bar homecoming king or queen - lawyers of course like other lawyers who do not give them a hard time in court and who do not fight them zealously and make them work harder than they want to for the sake of their clients! If you want somebody's opinion about how well a particular lawyer knows his or her stuff, or how hard he or she will fight for you, then ask the lawyer for client or other references (and beware the attorney who is hesitant to provide you any). It's that simple.
Look for an attorney who has a significant number of years experience with no professional discipline, who teaches other lawyers and who is published in one or more of his or her fields of expertise. We are the ones you can really depend on.
8. If you're criminally charged and can't afford a private defense attorney, then they will appoint a public-defender lawyer to represent you.
IT WOULD BE REAL NICE IF IT WERE THAT EASY. Click HERE to view one of my helpful YouTube criminal-defense videos to find out how it really works when you can't afford a lawyer on your own to defend you in a criminal case.
9. A criminal-defense attorney who was once a prosecutor will have the best experience to defend you if you're ever charged.
WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! Former prosecutors may have more jury-trial experience than most career defense attorneys, but keep in mind that most of their experience is from trying cases against people accused of committing crimes. It's a very different experience that comes from the same number of years defending people in front of juries against the prosecutors (and sometimes even against the judges who often side with the prosecutors, especially if the judge is also a former prosecutor), and that's the edge that best serves a person accused of criminal conduct. We career defense attorneys pick up every little trick the prosecutors try to pull, and we get to know the inner workings and policies of the prosecutors' offices after defending people for a long time. Every former prosecutor I know against whom I at one time had to defend clients who has since jumped the fence to defend the criminally accused was relentlessly, unreasonably heavy-handed as a prosecutor. What would make anybody think that someone who chose to start his or her career prosecuting people would be able to simply flip a switch in his or her brain such that he or she could then thoroughly and sincerely advocate for the best interests of people charged with committing the same crimes he or she once zealously prosecuted? Once a prosecutor, always the prosecutor's mentality! If you're thinking about hiring a former prosecutor to defend you in a criminal case, instead of a career defense attorney, like me, then ask him or her a few questions first: Why is the attorney now defending the criminally accused when he or she started out prosecuting them? What's your guarantee that he or she will really be looking out for your best interests and will not let old instincts inadvertently take over to the point that you get "sold down the river without a paddle"? If he or she says it's because the money is better, run (don't walk) out of his or her office, then call me. Some former prosecutors I know who are now defense attorneys have themselves been busted for drunk driving and shoplifting (can you believe that?), so they had no choice but to leave the prosecutor's office. Without practice experience in other areas of the law, they are forced to resort to doing criminal-defense work (it's not hard to imagine that they really don't want to be doing what they do now). So do you want one of them defending you?
I maintain an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau!
P.O. Box 579, Milwaukee, WI 53201 414-224-0668 Wisconsin State Bar # 1020925 -- New York Atty Reg. # 4308573