Client Education Series Keeping You 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.

Okay. Welcome back to the client education series. This is part of what I guess could be called the Onboarding Process of becoming a client of the firm. And we are covering different things. You have already seen the intro, you have seen the agreement for representation, you have already seen literally a court appearance that took quite a bit of time even though I did not physically go to court, I did it with ear pods in my ears and did it as easily as possible, still took a lot of time of waiting as you can see.

Well, now, we are going to talk about something that I think is critical the Florida Bar specifically references this and it is what is known as a lawyer’s duty to keep a client informed. Now, there is a massive difference between a lawyer’s duty to keep a client informed and an appointment that is not informational at all but is merely venting, complaining, or vomiting out stress. That may sound gross, imagine being on the receiving end of somebody venting anger, frustration, and stress in your face. This is routine in criminal defense law and in family law because the emotions run pretty high and the stakes are pretty high. So, let’s talk about a lawyer’s duty to keep a client informed.

First of all, that duty is specific to the client. Now, when a parent or another loved one pays a legal fee for their family member or someone they care about, quite often they want to get involved in the process, and very rarely do they use coping with stress during the criminal prosecution. So, the next thing you know, we get laundry list emails with 12 questions asking the same question over and over again as if the frequency of asking will change the answer. And each of these 12 questions will have 8 sub-parts. Now, we have a really difficult time with this simply because we take time away from defending the case and answering questions that are not relevant or not important. It is a real tension, where do you spend your time? Well, we do not want to waste your legal fee so that is why we are covering all this in the client education series.

A lot of lawyers will not even talk to family members. I take a very different view, and this is my view. If someone has a family member who cannot possibly be a witness in the case against them and they are trusted, like for example, somebody’s spouse where you have a spousal privilege and it is not a domestic case. Well, I think that it is important that if you have a good relationship with that spouse or a parent to talk to them. And if they want to talk to me or they want to talk to a co-counsel, that is fine as long as you or the person who is the actual client gives permission because you have a Sixth Amendment right to counsel. And you can think of that as a private right of communication. So, we want to honor that private right of communication. Now, additionally, as I have covered in other areas, we are counselors at law, not mental health counselors. So, we are going to always be focusing on information that relates to the result you are looking for in the case.

Sometimes, people will ask us questions about outcomes before we have all of the information so I want to give you this bit of information upfront to a generic question such as “What Will Happen If”, “Do I Have The Motion To Suppress”, those kinds of questions. Here is the answer. Maybe, I do not know. Why? Because we need more information. This is why we need your fact pattern report, that 4-day report process, this is why we need the discovery exhibit from the state of Florida, this is why we need a discovery review report, and this is why it is absolutely mandatory that you attend if you are a client, all appointments that are scheduled for you, meaning do not be late, do not no-show us. It can be done by phone, it can be done in the office and we will let you know which one is easier, we respect your schedule, and we will try and do things to that we are not scheduling on a point when you are supposed to be sleeping because you are on night shift or something. But if we schedule an appointment for you, it is probably going to be in response to information, in your fact-pattern report, the discovery exhibit as well as the discovery review report where you have gone over that. Usually, that is when we have questions.

Now, will we have questions beforehand? Well, let’s say that you need a bond set for a family member. Well, in that case, if we need the motion to set or reduce the bond, we may need to have an earlier interview. And if it is a different type of pleading requiring conversation and communication beforehand, we will certainly make that happen. If this is a pre-arrest scenario that we want to be a no-arrest scenario, then we are probably going to have to have a conversation sooner. In other words, at specific times along the way, you are going to be kept informed as a client of the firm. One of the ways we are going to keep you informed is in writing. We send an engagement letter very early on, we send a copy of the agreement for representation, and you will get a copy of the discovery exhibit and what is known as the Amended Discovery Exhibits. If there are videos or audio, you will have access to them. And the only thing you will not have if you are a client is the ability to go to depositions with us if we are taking pre-trial testimony before a case. Why? Well, that has been considered something that is a form of harassment for other parties.

So, generally speaking, you are not entitled to know the name and contact information of a confidential informant in certain drug and other cases, and defendants are not allowed to attend depositions. But we will keep you updated by phone, in person, by email, by letter, and a number of different ways so that you are always informed about your case.

Now, we will also make sure that any court documents that come to us such as a Notice to Appear, will get a copy of that. Now, when you get a notice to appear in court, keep in mind those dates can change and some of the dates that are listed on there are court dates where you will not have to attend the court. If, for any reason, you have to attend court, follow dress instructions for the court as if it is the most important religious requirement you could possibly have. I mean it is that important and let me answer a question I get asked all the time, “Can I substitute the suit in the dress instructions”, or, “Can I substitute the dress in the dress instructions for a pantsuit or black?” And the answer is no. Why? Because the research says the moment you go from navy blue to black, like what I am wearing today, this is the prison color, this is the jail color. Research has shown if you wear the wrong color to court, it can blow up in your face very badly. So, this is some information that I feel a lot of lawyers do not do correctly because they say things like dress nice for court. For the love of God, please, do not dress nicely for the court, dress exactly according to dress instructions for court.

And then, finally, touching on one final aspect. If there are other things that you need to know about or other concerns that you have, we will be happy to address those other concerns and we will schedule appointments as needed throughout your case. In a number of cases, you may only need two appointments. In another type of case, you may need four appointments. If this is a misdemeanor case and you are located in, say, Maryland or West Texas and it is difficult for you to get back to court in Florida, in many cases, we can handle the entire misdemeanor case without you appearing in court at all. Just as you saw earlier in another video, how I was able to do court telephonically. We have techniques to keep you out of court.

In felony cases, we can contract that but we cannot necessarily eliminate all court. Now, if we can and it meets your needs, we are happy to do it. However, if it is something like a motion to suppress hearing, if it is a sentencing hearing, and especially if it is a trial, either a bench trial or a jury trial, then, of course, you have to be present for that. But if we can keep you out of court and keep you informed along the way and you are following the stress protocol, the outcome in your case or that of someone you love is going to be much better.

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.