There are many stages of a criminal case. Whether you are a high-profile attorney working in a white collar defense firm or a solo practitioner with a large under the influence (DUI) clientele, criminal cases typically follow a standard procedure. As the attorney, you are the expert in this timeline and can provide valuable guidance to a person desperately in need of your services.
If you adopt a narrow view of only taking clients who have been formally charged, you are missing out on key opportunities to grow your business. By broadening your client intake, you can also mitigate potential repercussions, such as future clients making incriminating statements to the police or worse, turning themselves in without proper legal guidance.
Criminal defense attorneys looking to increase their firm’s profits should focus on the many other aspects of a criminal case as valuable sources of revenue. This includes advising clients about the potential outcome of their alleged criminal activity, representation at bail reduction hearings, filing and representation at arrest record sealing hearings, advising clients of their rights during an investigation, and much more. Here are a few pointers on how broader client intake can increase your criminal firm’s profits.
When a Person Has Been Arrested But Not Charged
Let’s imagine a scenario where a potential client calls you and indicates he has been arrested for a serious crime. While we all know an arrest is not a charge, it would be foolhardy to brush the person off and tell him to “call me back when you’ve been charged.” Why? For one, there are several key legal maneuvers you perform for him that can be monetized. Second, if you ignore him, he may very well find another willing criminal attorney in the interim and you’ve just lost business.
There are a number of ways you can assist this person, and you should mention these during the client intake. Potential opportunities for assistance include counseling the person during any custodial interrogations by law enforcement or representing them during their bail hearing, including a bail reduction or own recognizance release (OR). Here are a few other possible ideas:
- Assist a client with filing and arguing a motion to seal arrest records if the prosecutor chooses not to file charges;
- Negotiate with the prosecutor and possibly influence their decision on whether or not to file charges by presenting newly collected evidence by a private investigator countering any damaging evidence or other aspect of the charges;
- Advise client on how to answer employment background questions;
- Advise client about state-specific statute of limitations.
When a Person Is the Subject of an Open Investigation
Let’s now imagine a scenario where a client contacts you, scared because she is the subject of an open investigation, but hasn’t been arrested or charged yet. There is enormous potential to assist her in this situation, such as setting up a meeting to discuss her legal strategies and having her retain your services as a point of contact for law enforcement during the investigation. Additionally, you can:
- Advise the client on her rights. If she does want to talk to police, you can help her craft a statement that wouldn’t immediately subject her to self-incrimination.
- Help gather any physical evidence relating to the incident or events, such as clothing, photos, videos, and other objects. You can further advise her to immediately write down a detailed version of the events to keep in your files. Memories fade and sometimes investigations can take longer than expected.
- Help gather any documents or records that could relate to the case, such as letters, emails, financial or legal records, phone records, records that might show where the client was at the time of an incident, and computer records.
- Help make a list of any evidence from the crime scene that the client knows exists but was unable to take from the scene.
- Make a list of possible witnesses.
- Advise her on invoking her Fifth Amendment rights.
- Assist her with evidence-related request compliance.
When a Person Has Committed a Crime (Not Being Investigated, Arrested, or Charged)
Finally, let’s further imagine a scenario where a potential client comes into your office and tells you he has committed a crime. There are two important things to consider. First, how can you assist this client? And second, can you maintain your obligation as a licensed attorney to professional responsibility and the code of ethics?
If a person has actually committed a crime, but has not yet been arrested or charged, it will be important for the attorney to advise the client of his or her rights and help minimize criminal liability exposure in an ethical manner. After retaining your services, for instance, you can remind the client that he is not required to speak to police because anything he says will be used against him. Finally, if there is a car accident situation such as a hit and run, you may wish to be the liaison between the insurance company and the client.
As you can see, there are a number of important ways you can assist a potential client. No matter what, attorneys must always follow professional rules of conduct. This means:
- Never destroy evidence.
- Never take possession of evidence/contraband.
- Always document your efforts to legally and ethically resolve problematic situations in order to shield yourself and your client from any claims of inappropriate conduct.
Need Help Increasing Profits? Let FindLaw Do the Work
Keeping an open mind and being creative with client intake, retention, and management can be tricky. Let FindLaw assist your criminal practice in creating the ideal legal marketing strategy that generates a steady flow of viable clients. If you are looking for other sources of clients with real potential, FindLaw now offers Lead Flow, a criminal law lead generation service. To learn more, reach out to our team today to schedule a consultation.