New York City defense attorneys are often critiqued—sometimes ridiculed—for just doing our job. Those who want to “hang ‘em in the streets” criticize us for setting criminals loose on the population. The people we defend can’t believe we charge for our services. Cops always try to prevent people from talking to us, and television shows paint us as slick talkers and hucksters. The fact is that we’re just people doing a job, and, yes we deserve to be paid for it. After all, we’re the last line of defense between you and prison. A New York criminal attorney is the guy who is going to haggle and debate that felony down to a misdemeanor, or get that misdemeanor down to an infraction. We’re the folks who can make the difference between jail time and fines. So, please, have a little sympathy for the devil.
Most people don’t realize how many hours a NYC criminal lawyer spends each day taking calls that won’t end up in us being retained for services, but are just people wanting free legal advice. It’s part of the job. However, not a single one of these calls can be conducted in under 15 minutes. Say we take 20 of these “15 minute” calls a day—that’s five hours we’re not paid for. It’s time we’re donating because we’re not exactly the bad guys most people think we are. It does, however, prevent us from actually taking on as much pro bono work that we’d all like to do. So, when you call a NYC defense attorney because your public defender is too busy and overworked to do the job of a private attorney have a little sympathy and make it quick.
Along these lines, consider the job of the public defender and legal aid attorney. These people are swamped with people who have falsely heard that their crime shouldn’t end up in jail time because “so and so’s cousin did worse and he only got a fine.” Public defenders cannot give clients the type of attention a private attorney can give a client because there are just too many people who use their services. There’s only so much time in the day to work these cases. So when you call us complaining that your legal aid attorney isn’t taking your call or they didn’t show up in court or are forcing you to take the first offer from the ADA understand its because they don’t have the funds or time to devote to your case. In other words, you get what you pay for.
Lastly, understand that there are only so many hours in the day. We have eight hours to travel across town for court, drive out to Riker’s, work on motions, and speak to clients. Most criminal defense attorneys are happy to take a five minute phone call and not charge you for answering questions about your case. When this is abused by clients who want to “assist” you in doing your job then we start charging. Most people don’t realize how much time they spend on the phone with their attorney, and they don’t realize that we don’t even bill until it goes over fifteen minutes and encroaches on other work. We spent a long time in law school, trust us to do our jobs and you’ll see a difference in the bill. Maybe we’re not out there saving lives like paramedics or surgeons, but we are preventing you from spending quality time at Riker’s Island, so have a little sympathy for the devil and hug a New York City defense attorney today.