And here, like Walker Percy, he interviews himself.

Well, close.

Well, close.

No one has ever asked me the lawyer-related questions I would like to be asked.  At age fifty-three, time is passing.  So, inspired by novelist Walker Percy, who wrote an essay entitled Questions They Never Asked Me, I decided to do a self-interview.

If you’re unwilling or unable to click through the link, here is the gist of it:

 

You have a social-media presence. Can someone hire a lawyer off the Internet?

No. Hiring a lawyer is an impossible judgment to make from a blog or webpage. There are a lot of good lawyers. They may be able to help you, but you can’t tell because their websites and bios look and sound the same. (Ask yourself: “The last guy I looked at who talked about ‘innovation in client service,’ was the background of his webpage goldenrod, or was he the guy with the blue stripe and tiny print down the side?”)

First one lawyer, then another.

First one lawyer, then another.

So how does someone with a legal problem tell one lawyer from another?

All lawyers want to stand out from the crowd, but everybody uses the same buzzwords. “Dedicated, innovative and collaborative.”

A very 1980s approach.

A very 1980s approach.

It’s like we all picked up the same management-guru’s paperback one night changing planes at DFW.

That doesn’t answer the question.

Well, it does.

First, I’m not going to tell you how smart, creative, proactive, problem-solving, practical-minded, cost-effective, sophisticated, responsive, savvy, innovative, disruptive, global and social I think I am. Clients and colleagues get to draw conclusions like that.

Second, I’m going to admit at least some ignorance. A lawyer learns about a client by listening. Not by talking. If I don’t listen to you, I can’t claim an understanding of your business, your problem or your life.

If we skip adjectives and admit ignorance, what’s left?

A promise. I promise I’ll pay attention to you, your business and your life. If I’m not the smartest guy in the room (which is entirely possible), I promise that I will work harder―a lot harder―than anyone else in the room. I promise that I respect the courtroom but I don’t fear trial. I promise that I will tell you (a) the truth about your problem and (b) about whether I’m the right person to help. I promise to be ethical. I promise to be loyal, because too many lawyers and businesspeople aren’t.

That’s it?

That’s it.

 


Take The Deal or Go To Trial? Exactly.

"I know.  I should've taken the deal."

“I know. I should’ve taken the deal.”

The awful pressure to plead guilty, brought on by the significantly enhanced sentences that the Government often seeks where a defendant asserts his right to a trial, is highlighted in the media in drug cases, as here: Prosecutors Draw Fire for Sentences Called Harsh. For white-collar defendants — businesspeople who may be otherwise wholly unacquainted with the criminal justice system — the combination of mandatory minimums, ardent prosecutors and a public consciousness that prefers to blame for their woes abstractions (“Wall Street” or “the accountants” or “bankers”) rather than individual choices means that going to trial is almost impossible.  Plus, the costs can be prohibitive.

Not Rodin's "Thinker"

Not Rodin’s “Thinker”

Indeed, when a federal judge says in public that the wrong people decide who goes to prison, things have come to a head.  There is a move afoot in Congress to address sentencing, but it’s focused primarily on drugs.  Maybe, though, reform will trickle up to the businessperson’s case.


Civil Lessons From Criminal Trials (on YouTube)

Criminal Trials.  Civil Lessons.

This recent talk on Civil Lessons From Criminal Trials  is primarily directed to internal counsel; what they should think about when hiring outside counsel; and how they should review that lawyer’s plan to defend and resolve the case.  It may be of some interest, though, to outside counsel looking for a different perspective on handling his or her civil case.

Here is the (very short) written Handout.

 


Less Law Department Budget, More Growth, Unknown Compliance: What’s The Corporate Ethos?

In an era of flat or barely budging general-counsel or risk-management budgets, the question of  Balancing Budgets and Growth, especially for a multinational company, can be brutal.  Creating a compliance structure that looks cool on paper (or digitally) is one thing; testing actual performance is another.  As in most areas that test human willfulness and weakness against human laws, only the overriding culture and ethos will save the day (or cause the day to fail).






Why read White Collar Wire?

This is a blog about business crime. We post stories about news, cases, judicial opinions, practical tips and scholarly work regarding white-collar criminal and civil enforcement, grand jury investigations and regulatory compliance. We want to be useful to businesspeople, internal counsel, defense lawyers in private practice, prosecutors and law-school teachers.

Sometimes, we write about crime fiction, cocktails and theology. As anyone who’s ever been involved in the defense or prosecution of a white-collar case can testify, all three come in handy.

Don’t read us because you’re a criminal. Read us because, some time or other, someone may think you are.

Follow me onTwitter — @WhiteCollarWire — or email me at jsharman@lightfootlaw.com.

If you want more info about me, it’s here: http://lightfootlaw.com/alabama-lawyer/jackson-r-sharman

Jack Sharman