Client Education Series Client Information System To Keep All Of Us Informed

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Thank you for keeping up with me and watching all of these videos because this is a key component of keeping you and your loved ones informed. It is very important to be informed during the process. Now, in the last section, we talked about a lawyer’s duty that is set forth by the bar for keeping the client informed. We go above and beyond what the bar requires to keep people informed. And one of the things I did not mention in the last video that I will just add here is quite often, we send jury instructions, copies of the probation statute, and sometimes even the rules of criminal procedure. So, we are more than happy to keep you informed. However, there is a reciprocal duty that you owe us as your legal team. And these are some of the things that are part of that duty. Number one, first and foremost, you must do a fact-pattern report.

Now, if you are watching this and you have a loved one in jail, they still have to do a fact pattern report. Now, can they sit there and whip out their notebook and immediately start typing out their fact-pattern report? Not at all. But what they can do is they can order from the commissary a pad and one of those jail pens. And the jail pen does not look anything like this one at all. As you can see, this pen is pretty firm, while the jail pens are designed to security in mind and I totally get it that they are a stabbing pain in you know where trying to use but it is critical that we have a fact-pattern report. It is critical that you spend four days writing it because we do not know what kind of evidence is in your head that we need to know about. And I always tell the story. My very first trial in 1990 involved a case where we picked a jury. And just before the trial started, my very first opening statement, my client goes, “Oh, Mr. Cobb, I forgot to tell you X, is X important”. And I am going, “Oh, my God, X means you lose. Pray to tell, John Doe. Why did you not tell me X”, and he said something I will never forget, he said, “I did not know if it was important and I kept forgetting”.

So, when you are doing your fact-pattern report, we want to know everything, your clothing, other witnesses’ clothing, their contact information, if you have text messages as evidence, we want that, private messages from Facebook, all of it. If you have got evidence, we want to know about it. If you have witnesses’ names, addresses, phone numbers, work numbers, email, Facebook, and everything, we want to know how to get a hold of them, so your fact pattern report over four days is absolutely critical and I could never stress enough the importance of a fact-pattern report because I started those the day after I had a client go, “Mr. Cobb, I forgot to tell you X”. And X meant that guy would have gone to jail for a year. I undid a jury trial and instituted fact pattern reports after spending a lot of time in a pre-internet era going to the library studying a simple question that today would be a Google search but you did not have it back then, and the question was, “What is the best way to gather information from a client?”

And to this day, most lawyers bring you into the office, and their practice managers tell them to do that, never tell you anything you do not want to hear, do a lot of handholding, and a lot of comfort sessions, so they can sniff out cross-sales, resales and up-sales like you really need to be sold anymore in life. I mean maybe it is just me but I am sick of going to the restaurant and they put the drinks down first and they go, “Care for a drink, care for an appetizer”, and then there is the constant nagging for up-sells, “We can add this, it will just be X number of dollars and cents”. And then, at the end, save room for dessert. At this point, I do not know about you, you may not even notice it but I am ready to scream. And you do not need that kind of sales pressure from your legal team.

What you need instead are systems that work. And so, fact-pattern reports work. Now, in addition to a fact-pattern report, we are going to get a discovery exhibit electronically from the office of the state attorney in one of the 20 circuits in Florida depending on where your case is. If you are the defendant, you will get a copy of this information, which is a discovery exhibit, whether you are in jail or whether you are out on bond, which we prefer. And we want you to go through all of this information.

Now, I will tell you right now you are going to highlight things and you are going to note things and we are going to look at it and go, “Yes, it does not matter. Nope, that does not matter, nope that does not matter. Wait, what? That is important”. Now, that is a big deal because as you are going through the discovery exhibit because you are not an experienced criminal defense lawyer, it is normal and to be expected that you are going to flag and highlight things that you think are important that experience has taught us, “no, this is not important at all”. However, I would rather you do your fact pattern report and make it 500 pages of single space tiny print just to find one sentence that makes all the difference. And with your discovery review report, the same thing. It does not have to be four days. Take your time with it, but I would rather you highlight and take notes and write about a 100 different irrelevant things that will not make a difference in the outcome of your case but you might find one or two things that give us a motion to suppress a statement or physical evidence or other evidence that we would not have otherwise had.

You are basically looking for three things in a discovery exhibit. You are looking for things that are true, that is kind of obvious, things that are not true, that are blisteringly obvious. The third one is the most important in most cases, things that are partially true. In other words, you are reading the reports and you may be reading a witness statement and you go, “That is true, that is true, wo, wo, that is true but they left something out”. That is what we are looking for, that is where we often find defenses. So, one of your responsibilities is a fact-pattern report, the second is to do a discovery review report, and then as we are going through this list of things, we expect you to attend all appointments. That is absolutely critical, whether by phone or whether in person, whether it is at one location or another, we will try and make it as convenient as possible but we do not schedule appointments with you just to shoot the breeze. If we are scheduling an appointment with you, it is because you need to be informed about something, you may need to make a decision that will dramatically impact your life and those that you love. So, this brings us up to the next area that I talk about all the time to the point that almost drives people crazy. And it is simply this. Use the support materials for coping with stress during the criminal prosecution.

If you need a counselor to deal with the stress, get a counselor, do not talk about your case. But either way, you have to have a system so that you are emotionally a 10 at a time in life when it is the hardest. I mean think about it. No one wakes up in the morning and says, “I am going to start a life of crime, I am going to get arrested, I am going to risk jail and prison and I am so excited about it, I cannot wait to get arrested”, I mean that never happens. It is a disaster and we fully recognize that, which is why we do not want you to be the guy who turned 4 years of probation into 35 years in prison because his mind was not in the right place. So, it is absolutely critical, just as you are expected to do a fact-pattern report and are expected to review the discovery exhibit and produce another report just as you are expected to attend appointments and you are also expected to attend mandatory court as well, we also expect you to use coping with stress during a criminal prosecution.

Now, the next thing that is very important is we expect that you keep your contact information current because we have had some people who just literally disappear but all they have really done is move and change their cell phone numbers, we are trying to let them know there is a mandatory court appearance, and then we get a call a week after a bench warrant has been issued and they go, “Hey, I just want to know what is going on in my case”. Well, that is a simple answer, you have a warrant for your arrest and must turn yourself in. So, keep your contact information current, that is extremely important. And then finally, if you are a defendant, your final duty is to make sure that your family controls stress and we know how to do that.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talking to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.