First Meeting with your Lawyer – What NOT to ask

Happy Friday everybody, hope you’re having a great week. This video, I wanted to spend some time talking about an issue that comes up a whole lot when I’m meeting with a potential client for the first time. And what will generally happen is they will kind of give me the overview of what happened, what led up to their arrest, what charges they believe have been filed or are about to be filed against them. And then they’ll try to ask me, in my opinion, do they have a good case or what do I think the odds are that I can get them off? Something to that effect. And it’s an incredibly normal question and there’s really nothing wrong with that question. But what I have to caution folks of, every single time is if you ever meet with a lawyer, specifically, a criminal defense lawyer, and you ask that question and you get some type of definitive answer, some lawyer that says I think your chances are this percent or even worse, some type of guarantee or a promise of what the result will be, I would be incredibly, incredibly wary of that lawyer.

Because any real good lawyer knows that there are so many variables that go into a criminal case that simply put, there’s just no way for us to know about right off the bat. Even if I believe what a potential client is telling me with 100% accuracy, I believe their story completely, there are still things that we don’t know, such as did the arresting officers do something improper or illegal unbeknownst to the client? Did a witness that was there at the scene lie to the officers or make up a story about what they saw or what they think they saw? Is there some sort of physical evidence that we’re unaware of at that moment that could either be exculpatory or incriminating? So all of those things, there’s no way to know in that initial meeting.

So typically what I tell folks is look, what I am confident in is my ability to do the very best job that I can. However, in terms of where this is going to go, I won’t know a good educated answer to that until we get way further into the case. And so again, this video is really more for those of you out there that might be looking at hiring a criminal defense lawyer that’s near you or in your area or whatever, just know going in because I know it’s going to be … It’s human nature. You’re going to want to know what do you think my chances are, and just be cautious of that question, or don’t be disappointed when you don’t get a direct answer to that question, because it’s so impossible for a lawyer to really answer.

What you can ask, and what I think is typically an easier question to be answered is ask that lawyer, what are my worst case and what are my best case scenarios? That one, I generally can’t answer because if you give me kind of a recitation of what happened, I can say, well, based on that fact pattern or based on what you’re telling me, I think the worst that could happen is they could charge you with this type of offense, which this is the range of punishment. And this is typically what you see in those cases.

Best case scenario is we might be able to get a dismissal or we might be able to do pretrial diversion, or we might be able to get an acquittal at trial. So I can give you a better idea of kind of best case, worst case scenario. The prime example is somebody comes in with a first time DWI. When they ask me, what do you think my odds of getting this off my record are? Well, I don’t know. But if you ask me best case, worst case, what I can generally tell you is, based on the facts that I know, based on your criminal history, I can generally tell you that you’re likely not looking at jail time, unless there’s something else that happens between now and when we get this case resolved. So there’s your worst case. Best case is we get it dismissed, we get it at trial, it goes off your record completely. So that’s an easier question to answer.

So I hope that helps, and like I said, hopefully that helps you when you go in for a consultation or you’re meeting with a lawyer for the first time, it gives you some insight on questions that they can answer and questions that they can’t answer. And you’re not discouraged when you ask that and you kind of get an, it depends, which is your typical lawyer speak. So again, hope that helps. As always, if you have any comments, questions, concerns, feel free to either leave them down below or send me an email. I always end these videos with a screen of my email address and phone number. I am happy to answer any emails that I can or any phone calls that I can. I don’t charge for consultations so if you need to just call me and have a question, I’m happy to answer it. So I hope that helps, have a great weekend and I look forward to seeing you all next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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