Step 5: Stop Researching The Law
Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.
During the course of my career, I’ve had many clients approach me and say, “I’m trying to help you on my case and here’s a case I’ve found that says I win.” I would then be promptly handed a legal decision from another jurisdiction that had absolutely no relevance to the case at hand, yet my client would persist in arguing with me about how right they were because of what they had found. The internet has only made this problem worse. I believe that part of the problem is that government entities willfully put incomplete and misleading information online in order to snag the unwary and to create tension between attorneys and clients. Think about it for a moment. If you could get the other side to fight and argue with their witnesses, then that would mean they’re not working on the case and being productive. When the trial comes, does that help you or harm you?
Now, flip the script. That’s what’s going on against you. When people research the law obsessively, that tells me right off-the-bat that they are not utilizing the stress control protocol and that they are highly likely to blow their lives up by that information. There’s an expression that applies to situations in which someone just complains about their lawyer, and it goes like this: guilty people blame their lawyers. You don’t want to be in the business of lawyer blame. You want success with your case. The highest degree of likelihood of success with your case is not going to be gained through researching the law and telling the lawyer what to do. Instead, the most effective thing you can do is to control stress by reading the books, listening to the audio programs and watching the videos that are recommended.
In some cases-as I’ve noted on numerous occasions in multiple different articles- it may be necessary to hire and utilize the services of a mental health counselor. However, I always remind people that they need to speak with their legal team before actually going to counseling so that problems do not occur down the road. When it comes to researching the law, it’s important to remember you do not have access to the legal search engines that lawyers use. Lawyers don’t look for the law by popping up their Google application and typing away random questions. Lawyers use specialized legal search engines that look at known case law. They look at similar cases that judges have already ruled upon and that may impact a case based upon a specific legal issue. This is something that takes years to learn.
Much to the surprise of many people, you do not learn the law when you go to law school. That is probably the single biggest misconception about law school. It does not teach a future lawyer the law. Instead, it teaches a future lawyer how to think about legal issues, and this is a critical distinction. A first day prosecutor has more experience with researching the law over the period of three years than you will have had in your entire lifetime. This is why you always hire a lawyer if you are confronted with criminal charges. This is also why you do not attempt to “help” your legal team by researching the law. You hired a legal team to do that, so let them do it.
Avoid Comfort Sessions With Your Lawyer
Very often, clients will call up a law firm demanding-sometimes begging- to speak with the lawyer. Why are they doing this? Over the course of many years, I’ve noticed that people would act this way when they wanted comfort sessions, in which we would be discussing the drama and trauma of their experience with the case, rather than the potential outcomes of the case itself. As a result, we waste 30 minutes to an hour instead of spending that time on productive legal work. If you are using your lawyer or legal team as a sounding board or for mental health therapy, then you are setting your hard-earned dollars that you paid for a legal fee on fire. Put the fire out, stop the smoke and do what you need to do in order to deal with the stress of criminal prosecution.
As I’ve mentioned time and time again throughout my career, use the protocol we call Coping with Stress during Criminal Prosecution. Comfort sessions are especially damaging because they take away from a lawyer’s ability to defend you. Many people falsely believe they want a lawyer who believes in them, a lawyer who will be compassionate and a lawyer filled with empathy. You need that type of lawyer like you need a hole in the head. You have five- you don’t need a sixth. Don’t worry- the state of Florida is trying to put a sixth one right between your eyes. In order to prevent that, it’s critically important to know what the purpose of an attorney-client meeting really is. I will now discuss the definition of a proper attorney-client meeting (starting with the outcome).
The purpose of an attorney-client meeting is to accomplish a specific case-related legal result that cannot be accomplished by any other means.
This is critical to understand. If your lawyer and legal team are too busy holding your hand and giving you emotional comfort to actually work on your case productively, then you have basically paid for a mental health counselor who is not qualified to render that type of service. In addition to setting the legal fee on fire, you are wasting their time and yours. If a lawyer is very good at making people feel good in the office, the odds are that that particular lawyer is not going to be as strategically sound and practically adept as a lawyer who does not do that. I am definitely in that second category. I do not do comfort sessions; it would be a disservice to each and every client if I were to engage in such behavior. It’s counterproductive and it’s dangerous.
You need your legal team (and especially your lead counsel) to have plenty of available RAM (random access memory), just like a computer. That way, they have the space to logically process what needs to be done in your case. They need to know what will be most effective. If their minds are clouded with empathy, compassion, drama, trauma and emotion, then that will interfere with their logical reasoning. If the logical reasoning is compromised, then the case outcome has a higher degree of likelihood of being one that you do not want. One client once said, “I want an appointment so you can give me hope.” Handholding is a dangerous behavior; when lawyers do it, it can lead both you and your legal team to have distorted judgment and can cause your case to blow up in your face like a nuclear bomb. Your legal team’s lawyers are counselors at law. They are not counselors in mental health.
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