Interviewer: You know how to choose, let’s say, the best or one of the top defense attorneys, but the public doesn’t, and they’re hearing from people about price, and they’re hearing from attorneys “I’m aggressive” and they’re hearing from attorneys “I have experience” and all that, so if you were facing being charged with a crime, and you didn’t know what you know, how would you find the best person for you? What advice can you give to people searching?
Sam Sachs: I would go one step past what you said. They’re hearing what they want to hear. Even when I speak to defendants, they hear what they want to hear. They’ll call you up and say, “I got charged with this. I got charged with the other thing. Can you beat the charges? What do you think the outcome’s going to be?” and I always tell them the same thing. Any attorney that tells you over the phone, “I can get you off the charges, and don’t worry about it, I’ll take care of it,” is not telling you the truth.
I tell them, “If you want someone to say that to you, just look on the internet. Keep on making phone calls. Somebody will tell you exactly what you want to hear or you’ll think they tell you exactly what you want to hear, but just like a doctor, you can’t call a doctor up and say, ‘Oh my god, my nose is bleeding. I have a bad stomach ache and I can’t move my jaw. Am I okay or not?’ He or she is going to say, ‘You’ve got to come in. I’ve got to examine you. I’ve got to run some lab tests.’ No doctor’s foolish enough to make a diagnosis over the phone, and no lawyer should make a diagnosis without looking at the evidence.”
Again, it’s not what the defendant did. It’s what the state can prove, so if somebody tells you, “I’ll take care of you,” run in the other direction.
It is Important to Have Confidence and Trust in Your Attorney
Interviewer: Let’s say someone speaks to three different attorneys. They all sound good and they all sound reasonable, like they could help them. Now, what would they look for to really differentiate and find the right one for them?
Sam Sachs: You have to have confidence in who represents you. You have to decide who you’re going to have confidence in because if you’re second-guessing your attorney and you don’t feel a level of comfort, you’re never going to be okay and you’re not going to take their advice. If I’m in a situation where I sense somebody is having some doubt about what I say, I tell them, “You know what? Maybe I’m the wrong guy for you. You’ve got to find someone whose personality and whose professional wisdom you respect.” That’s first and foremost. If someone’s abrasive or difficult or doesn’t care that much about you, and those things are important to you, then that’s not the attorney that you should pick.
Then you’ve got to look at what their background is. What do they do? Do they do a little of this, a little of that? Are they a jack-of-all-trades, master of none? Or do they specialize and do the same thing day in and day out in the same way? That makes a big difference.
A Well-Seasoned Attorney is Better Qualified to Defend You in a Criminal Case
During my law school years, I worked at The Applied Physics Laboratory of Johns Hopkins University and I had a lot of collaborative projects with the medical school. One of the things I realized was the doctors weren’t any smarter than most doctors not at Johns Hopkins, but because they specialized, they saw the same thing day in and day out they got better results. You might go to a local doctor in a suburban community who sees three rare cases a year, or you could go to someone in a medical center who sees the same thing 100 times a year. Who do you think is going to diagnose you and take care of you faster? The guy who sees it all the time, and that’s exactly the way I feel about lawyers.
If an attorney does three drunk driving cases a year and most of the time he or she is doing real estate closings, he or she probably doesn’t even know what the latest law is, but if he or she does it day in and day out, every single day, or he or she does criminal cases day in and day out, every single day, he or she has got a much better chance of getting a good result. He or she may not be any smarter, but he or she is going to be better seasoned and better able to defend you. That’s an important fact. In a perfect world, it might not make a difference, but it’s not a perfect world.