The Internet's Impact on Criminal Law

Interviewer: How have you seen the Web and social media affect law? Has it been causing problems? Do clients cause problems with their cases because of it or are there more misconceptions because of it?

Paul Geller: I think there are definitely more misconceptions. I think many people can be cajoled into hiring someone and thinking they’re hiring a certain attorney when in reality they’re not. There are many attorneys out there who advertise offices all over California and, without a doubt, it’s not rocket science: you’re not going to have that particular lawyer whose name is on the website in court representing you.

The thing about criminal law is that, and I mentioned this earlier, it is very personal. It is very personal among the attorneys involved, both the criminal defense attorneys and the prosecutors and oftentimes, the judges. Many criminal defense attorneys are former prosecutors like myself. I’m very social with prosecutors and judges.

You’ll find that in the criminal defense world or the criminal legal world, we are very civil, to borrow a term from another area, unlike civil attorneys who oftentimes are anything but civil. We socialize with each other. We socialize with each other in and out of court, which can sometimes put people off because they expect the attorney to come, go, walk into court, and be very confrontational and loud. They get that impression from movies and television.

That is not the way it is in criminal court. It’s typically very social. I’m not saying that it’s not serious, but it’s a much more personal type of environment and that’s where having a particular lawyer that the client is comfortable with and knowing that that particular lawyer has the personal relationships and experiences with all the parties involved comes into play and it’s so vital and so important.

So, going onto the Web and seeing something that is packaged or stale regarding a particular lawyer doesn’t really give you the full picture, I think it’s very important for the client to meet with the lawyer, get a better impression of the person on a personal basis, and understand really who’s going to be representing the client in court. I think the Web can be a little bit misleading regarding that.

Testimonials can often times help, even though they sometimes can be manufactured so I think it’s difficult to really trust everything on the web. It’s important, I think, for potential clients to talk to the specific lawyer that’s going to handle the case. As much as possible, you should meet with the attorney first.

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