So the other day I got a call from a guy in Milwaukee who really, really wanted to hire a Chicago criminal lawyer. The problem was that he was actually arrested in Wisconsin.
I asked him why he wanted someone from Illinois if the case was up in cheese-head land and he told me, “because all of the criminal defense lawyers are in bed with the prosecutors in Milwaukee.”
I proceeded to try and explain how it was not true, but he didn’t want to hear it. So let me explain it to anyone else that thinks this happens.
Lawyers are never in bed with the opposing lawyer on a case. They may be friends. They may joke around together. The might even go out socially or work on Bar Association events with each other. But I’ve yet to meet or hear of an attorney who is willing to sell out his client, the one that pays him, in order to help out the other side.
Building relationships with opposing attorneys is a good idea. You might need a favor in a case like a continuance of a trial because you aren’t ready. To act like an a-hole to everyone just alienates you and makes them hate your client by association. Being friends doesn’t mean that the other lawyer will do whatever you want, but it also means that they won’t make your life hell.
So if you are a criminal defense attorney, buddying up to a prosecutor that you have to deal with all of the time is just smart. Maybe if they like you they will make your life easier.
I once got a call from someone who wanted me to be their workers’ compensation lawyer because they saw their attorney and the defense lawyer laughing hysterically together. Instead of asking his lawyer what it was about, he assumed that his attorney was getting paid off and that they were laughing at him.
Of course this wasn’t true. Payoffs don’t happen. You may suspect it, but I’ve yet to see anyone prove it. The reality in that situation as well as most others was that these were two friends who don’t let their involvement in a case become personal. I declined to get involved in that case as I knew the lawyer for the caller was a good guy. Sure enough I got a call back a few months later from this injured worker thanking me and letting me know that he got the settlement he was looking for.
Being in a legal matter can drive you crazy. Don’t go crazier by worrying about things that aren’t true.
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