Caveat emptor is loosely translated from Latin as “let the buyer beware.” In other words, it is a principle of contract law, sales, and (ultimately) capitalism that the buyer alone is responsible for checking the quality and suitability of goods or services before a purchase is made.[i] Like anything in life, you usually get what you pay for. The same is true for a criminal defense attorney or a criminal appeals attorney. The better-quality ones charge a premium but usually deliver better results.[ii]
Extensive experience and superior skill are telltale signs of the better criminal defense attorneys. These qualities usually translate into a better overall experience and possibly a better outcome, but there are no guarantees. While there are those unscrupulous attorneys out there who will promise all sorts of nonsense, any criminal defense attorney worth their salt will not lie to you and promise you a specific outcome to your case. To do so is unethical. It is wrong. And the attorney would be flat out lying to you.
Facing criminal charges, whether guilty or not, can be an excruciating experience, mentally and physically exhausting, and financially devastating. As indicated above, no criminal defense attorney can guarantee a specific outcome to case because there are several factors that are outside the attorney’s control, so please do not be misled in a false sense of security by exaggerated claims of skill or experience. Do not be sold a bill of goods. Be careful in making your decision. Ask questions. Educate yourself on the issues. Interview the attorneys (after all you are hiring them for a specific job).
Further, do not be sold by fancy, flashy, or glitzy webpages. Do not be wowed by brillant marketing. It does not mean anything. Do your homework. Research the attorney. If there is an advertisement or webpage, please review the information carefully and objectively. Objectively challenge what you are being told in any lawyer advertisement.
Here are some of the traps to avoid when shopping for a criminal defense or criminal appellate attorney:
“Vague” statements of what the attorney may have done in the past. Pay close attention to the wording of the statements. There is a big difference between having filed a bunch of substantive motions and actually having argued a bunch of substantive motions. Pay close attention to vague wording that sounds promising or conveys some modicum of confidence. This is advertising 101. While there are too many examples to play around with, read the language carefully and make sure you understand exactly what is being conveyed. While there are genuine and truthful statements about the attorney, there are marketing statements that are pure fiction and should be avoided. If the attorney claims sound too good to be true, then they probably are (so, do not let you emotions, specifically desparation, drive the decision to hire any specific attorney).
Here is one such flashy meaningless slogan “having defended thousands of cases for [blah] years, …” Thousands? Thousands? If the attorney represented one hundred cases a year for ten years, then that would equal one thousand cases. Thousands? If they kept that number up for twenty years, then that would be two thousand. I guess it would then qualify as a valid claim for “thousands cases,” but it is pure nonsense and you should recognize it as such. And what is this attorney talking about? Are they representing cases on an assembly line? Are they paying attention to what they are doing? How can they if they have handled thousands of cases in a short time? Critically examine these common attorney marketing ploys.
Be careful with paid advertisements like www.expertise.com It sounds fancy and formal, but it is pure marketing. The web site misleads the unsuspecting reader right off the bat by its name “expertise.” Nonsense. There is no such superlative being conveyed by expertise.com to any of the attorneys listed. In fact, everyone of the attorneys listed paid for the marketing spot. While there is nothing wrong with paid advertising, the consumer must recognize it as marketing and not true expertise in the field.
Here is the exact wording from expertise.com’s “marketing agreement,” “Sponsorships: Client shall pay SP the amount agreed to per the Expertise.com invoice in exchange for placement in the corresponding category.”[iii] Wait, what? It is marketing that is intended to make the attorney appear like some superstar or an expert.[iv] It is paid advertising and is meaningless in terms of experience or skill. And it is deceiving and misleading at best.
Board-certification by the Florida Bar is the only recognized way an attorney in Florida can claim to be an expert. Period. See www.floridabar.org The rest of these dot com web pages are simply fancy marketing and do not translate into better proficiency as an attorney. Click on the link for further information https://ihearyoubarking.com/2021/02/01/3-reasons-you-want-to-hire-a-board-certified-criminal-trial-lawyer-for-2021/ In fact, many of the paid lawyer advertising sites are simply misleading.
Plus, watch out for phony awards that many attorneys post on their websites. If the site lists an award, then ask the attorney how they came to be awarded the award. Who bestows the award? Is the award a popularity contest? Or is the award awarded for true excellence in the field? There are various legal participation awards that many attorneys place in their marketing to sound official. There are very few awards in the profession that are worth anything. Do your homework.
“Former state prosecutor” – the statement suggests two things that are not always true. First and foremost, it suggests some special experience that makes the attorney stand out from the rest of the field. The statement is marginally true. A prosecutor, who tries some cases, may be skilled at prosecuting, but may be terrible at criminal defense which is nothing like prosecuting. In fact, defending someone is the exact opposite of prosecuting someone.
Think about this, are pitchers in Major League Baseball (“MLB”) good batters? Maybe, but not usually. Are quarterbacks in the National Football League (“NFL”) good linebackers? Most likely not. “Former prosecutor” sounds impressive (and in many ways is impressive), but not to a person who needs a criminal defense attorney.
Criminal defense is a skill that is developed over time with extensive litigation, hard work, dedication, and many jury trials. To be proficient in criminal defense is to have a superior understanding procedure, the various substantive charges, and rules of evidence inside and out. These skills are learned and perfected over the years as the attorney defends clients in and out of court. As a result, criminal defense attorneys should be able to try a case.[v]
The second thing that “former prosecutor” implies is that the experience gained as a “prosecutor” means they know people in the system and can get you a better plea bargain or outcome to your case. Again, marginally true. Once a prosecutor leaves the prosecutor’s office, they usually do not have the same level of pull or input they once had. The longer they are out, the less pull or influence they have. And so, on and so forth.
“Trial attorney” is another one. Flat out ask the attorney how many jury trials the attorney has tried to completion? Is the attorney board certified by the Florida Bar? See if the attorney can provide examples that you can verify. Run the attorney’s name through the different clerk computers to verify the results. Go to the courthouse and ask the bailiffs and clerks if they have heard of the specific attorney. Keep mind there is a lot of sales rhetoric out there that does not translate into reality. Click on the link for further information https://ihearyoubarking.com/2020/12/15/who-is-the-most-important-person-in-a-criminal-courtroom-psst-my-answer-might-surprise-you/
For instance, would you call a person who has never fixed a car, a mechanic? Or maybe that person once fixed a car, is that person now a mechanic? And would you trust them with the brakes to your car? Would not you want to know what their qualifications and certifications are if they were going to fix your brakes? You bet you do.
Here is another example. Would you call a person who has graduated medical school, but never performed a surgery, a surgeon? Maybe in medical school they watched a lot of surgeries, but never did one themselves. Are they now a surgeon? And are they operating on your family member for the first time on their own? Of course they are not.
The above questions barely escape their own statements and without a doubt the answers are no. So why would a criminal defense attorney get to call themselves a trial attorney without ever having (or rarely having) tried a case? Or call themselves an appellate attorney without having ever filed or argued an appeal? For the life of me, I am not sure, but it might be worth finding out if you intend to hire that attorney to defend you or prosecute an appeal.
When the attorneys say “we have over X years of experience” at this firm. What the advertisement is actually saying is completely misleading. Let us dissect the advertisement. We a few attorneys working here. When we sum up all the years that each of the attorneys working here we come up with “X.” “X” represents the total number of years practiced, but does not reflect each attorney’s skill or experience. So, if the attorney is a terrible attorney, who cares that they have practiced 20 years. The amount of years practiced does not necessarily translate into better performance or outcome. This is why the statement is bogus.
Take the Ford Motor Company, Ford owns several other car manufacturers.[vi] It would be bizarre if Ford, which started in 1903, claimed Ford Motor Company has over 300 years of experience manufacturing cars (because it owns three companies all founded in 1903)? The question is absurd. The fact that an attorney has been practicing for “X” number of years meaningless if the attorney is an unskilled attorney or that attorney’s skill level is added to another attorney with no skill level. Quality, not quantity.
So, caveat emptor. You have been warned. Before hiring any criminal defense attorney or criminal appellate attorney do your homework. Research the attorney. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Get yourself informed and educated. After all, you are hiring the one person that will be standing between you and prison. Don’t you want to get the right person for the job? And not simply the person with the best marketing malarkey?
Anthony Candela is the Trial Dog and a three-time Board-Certified criminal trial attorney. He opened the Candela Law Firm, P.A. in 2014 and handles criminal trials and appeals (as well as estate planning, wills, and trusts). He received his J.D. from Duquesne University School of Law in 2000 and his B.A. in Political Science from King’s College in 1996. As an expert in criminal law and procedure, he has tried over a hundred cases to verdict. Since 2008, he has been certified and recertified by the Florida Bar in Criminal Trial three times. He has also argued several dozen appeals. In the federal system, he is admitted to the Middle District of Florida and the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal. #candelalawfirm #thetrialdog @candelalawfirm @thetrialdog
THE CHOICE OF ATTORNEY MATTERS. IN A CLOSE CASE, YOU WANT EVERY ADVANTAGE YOU CAN GET. YOU WANT THE BEST YOU CAN AFFORD. If you are looking for representation in a criminal matter, we believe we can help you. Please contact www.candelalawfirm.com or Anthony Candela at (813) 417-3645 to discuss your case.
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No. 21-012 Marketing Madness
[ii] No attorney can guarantee any specific outcome because the attorney does not and cannot control the judge, jury, witnesses, opposing counsel … etc. A word of caution. If an attorney promises you a specific outcome of a case, then demand and require the attorney to provide that promise and guarantee in writing. If the attorney promises things like “I can get this case dismissed,” or, “you are only getting probation,” or whatever, then make the attorney put those promises and guarantees into writing. Do not relent. If the attorney has promised a specific outcome, then make them produce that outcome or get your money back. Any criminal defense attorney or criminal appellate attorney worth their salt will not make any promises or guarantees about any specific outcome.
[iii] The Florida Bar currently only allows board-certified attorneys to claim an expertise. While there are attorneys out there that can claim a specialty, only board-certified attorneys are allowed to call themselves an expert. www.expertise.com might be running afoul of the Florida Bar rules, but that is for another day.
[iv] Just saying … here is the first part of the agreement for expertise.com, “MARKETING AGREEMENT
This Marketing Agreement (this “Agreement”) is entered into as of the Effective Date, between Expertise.com, LLC (“Service Provider” or “SP”) and the entity or individual executing this Agreement (“Client”).
Services: Beginning on the Effective Date, SP shall deliver to Client, per Client’s specifications consumer Leads Client’s Territory”.
Term: The initial term of this Agreement will be 30 calendar days, beginning on the Effective Date, unless otherwise stated. Thereafter, this Agreement shall continue month to month unless either party provides notice of termination with such termination being effective immediately (collectively, the “Term”).
Sponsorships: Client shall pay SP the amount agreed to per the Expertise.com invoice in exchange for placement in the corresponding category.
Payments: Payments will be made monthly beginning on the effective date. Client must cancel service within five days of the payment date in order to receive a refund for that month’s sponsorship. Client hereby authorizes SP to process payment using the method provided by client.
Terms and Conditions…
[v] Good criminal defense attorneys can litigate (and are not afraid to throw down in a court room to defend their clients). They can file great substantive motions. They can issue spot substantive, procedural, and evidentiary issues. They can negotiate well, but if the negotiations break down, they can pick a jury and put up a defense (and make the prosecution prove its case). The threat of going to trial is worthless unless the attorney can and will go to trial. Both prosecutors and judges know which criminal defense attorneys are “bona fide,” trial attorneys, and which ones are putting on a “dog and pony” show for the client. Like anything else, if the bluff is called, the defense must be able to go to trial and take the state to its task (win or lose).
[vi] Currently, Ford owns and operates Ford, Lincoln, Mercury, and invests in Rivian Automotive with Amazon. https://www.consumerreports.org/cars-who-owns-which-car-brands/