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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

How to Hire a Reputable Criminal Defense Lawyer/Attorney

How to Hire a Reputable Criminal Defense Lawyer/Attorney
by Scott Pactor
Attorney at law

  I am Criminal Defense Lawyer.  I practice in Southern California, San Diego, Los Angeles, Orange County, Riverside, San Bernardino, Imperial.  I've managed to hold down a five star Yelp profile for several years, and because of that I get a lot of calls from people who have met with other lawyers.  By talking to them, I've learned some things, and I wanted to share them with other people who are thinking about hiring a criminal defense lawyer.

  The main trap that people fall into is hiring a "Center" or "Group."  These entities- I won't call them law offices, operate on the fringes of ethical behavior and they prey upon the fact that most people hiring a Criminal Defense Attorney are doing so for the first time, and will probably never do it again.   These places will often have generic sounding names that include something group and then the telling "Center" or "Group" (although I note some sophisticated examples of this practice are abandoning the center/group.)

  The way these places work is they hire SEO experts and online marketers to create an on-line advertising presence for their practice, let's call it "Pacific Law Center" to give a familiar example.  There is nothing wrong about using on-line advertising, I use on-line advertising- many ethical lawyers do.  However, typically what happens next is problematic.  After the initial contact, the potential client or "lead" talks not to a lawyer, but rather a non-lawyer whose purpose is to vet the client and set up a meeting with an actual attorney.

  These client screeners often come from a sales background.  They may masquerade as a legal secretary or para-legal, but they are not.  The purpose of these screeners is not to give people a fair and honest opinion about your situation, but to sell you.   Running an operation like I've described requires an operational budget far beyond that of a normal attorney's office, so they have every impetus to make false representations and do what I call selling false hope.

  Once a potential client has been vetted, the meeting with the actual lawyer typically involves a lot of selling of false hopes.  Promises like "I'll get the case dismissed;" or "You have nothing to worry about," are combined with probing questions about the resources available, and eventually a quoted price is given.  Prices are typically in line with market rates, but these operations are always looking for native potential clients willing to pay far in excess of what an average lawyer would charge.

   How can you avoid this fate?  First of all, you may want to skip talking to any entity that fits any of the following characteristics:
  1.  Has "Group" or "Center" in their name and is otherwise vague about which lawyer runs the practice.
 2.  Has you talk to a non-lawyer for longer then it takes to set up a phone call or meeting with a real lawyer.
3.  Makes you fill out questionnaires that include questions designed to find out how much money you may have available.

  If you've already gone through that process and meet with a lawyer, you want to avoid sellers of false hope: lawyers who promise that they will make the case disappear.  I believe I speak on behalf of every single reputable lawyer I know, when I say that Criminal Defense Attorneys should not be in the business of selling false hope.

 Another warning sign is lawyers who give you the hard sell, want immediate payment, in exchange for doing something quickly that will "make the case go away." I've often heard people say that lawyers will promise to call the District Attorney before the case is filed and prevent it from being filled.  In my experience, this is almost 100% impossible and in all cases is an attempt to extract money from a client immediately.

  Finally, demanding to be paid the entire fee up front is not necessarily a problem, I know many lawyers who say that is their policy, but if it comes with other indicia mentioned above, it should be a red flag.

  Conversely, reputable lawyers will do things like talk to you for free on the phone, schedule a free in person consultation, talk reasonably about payment plans, and tell you if they're services aren't actually required or if they are too busy or otherwise engaged to handle your case.   If you have any questions, you can call me.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Dangling Man (1944) by Saul Bellow

Book Review
Dangling Man (1944)
by Saul Bellow

 The Life of Saul Bellow: To Fame and Fortune 1915-1964, a very long (832 pages) first volume of a projected multi-volume biography of the author, was published on May 5th of this year.  So I'm sitting in my place in Echo Park with the Sunday edition of the New York Times, perusing the book review section, and bang- front page.  Meanwhile I'm half-way through his first novel, Dangling Man, and I've never read anything else by Bellow, and kind of feel like one of those people who doesn't read movie reviews if they are going to watch the movie (I'm not one of those people) because I don't know a thing about Saul Bellow, and I know I'm going to get a number of his books inside the 1001 Books Project, and I'd rather just read the books and learn the biography as I go. 

 Saul Bellow is one of those authors who I vaguely equate with my parents, seen on the shelves at the homes of friends growing up, but not someone that was discussed let alone read by myself or my peers.  I guess I would probably lump him in with Hemingway in a vague way- though I now know, after reading several books by Hemingway, that the comparison isn't that apt.  Dangling Man is about a guy who is waiting to be called up the draft- he is kind of an artist, unemployed.  It's written in diary form.  It is like many first novels written by Anglo-American authors stretching back a half century by 1944.   You get a strong sense of the author as a struggling young artist.

  The diary format is inexplicable, and I guess one just chalks it up to what they call "early days" in the entertainment industry.  What comes after, I suppose, must be undeniable and Dangling Man is pleasant enough.  A diary format though.  I mean, really.

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Razor's Edge (1941) by W. Somerset Maugham

Bill Murray costumed as Larry Darrell, the pilot seeker at the hear of The Razor's Edge

Book Review
The Razor's Edge (1941)
 by W. Somerset Maugham

  Bill Murray agreed to do Ghostbusters for Paramount in exchange for them financing his passion-project movie version of this book.  The movie was a horrific critical AND commercial flop, setting Back Murray's attempt to become a "serious" actor by several decades.  The Razor's Edge is an early template for the 60s era seekers novels about young men from the West seeking wisdom of the East.  In the photograph above- a scene which is only described via hearsay (Darrell describing something to another narrator who describes it to the reader)- it is already possible to see how Hollywood would mess up a movie version.

  The straightforward "boy seeks wisdom" tale is complicated by Maugham imposing  himself as a "truthful" narrator of the events.   "Maugham" consciously applies his craft to the supposedly non-fiction events, moving stories he has heard in later years into their proper place for the sake of the chronological narrative.   Like all of Maugham's novels, The Razor's Edge is much cleverer than the reader would expect with layers of characters and unexpected plot points.

 Also notable in The Razor's Edge is the way Maugham draws American characters.  I can't remember seeing such space devoted to purely American "types" in any other novel not written by an American up until this point.  Mostly, the American characters seem to say "d'ya" instead of "do you" whatever their class and station in life.

 Like all of Maugham's books, The Razor's Edge is under three hundred page and acute and funny.  The American characters add interest for a potential American audience, which seems to be consistent.  The edition I checked out from the San Diego Public Library was a Vintage Books paperback published in 2003.

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