Interviewer: What do you say to people that are kind of in the middle of the process and they say, “I can’t take it anymore; I want to just give up and thrown in the towel?” Does that happen? What do you tell people who say that?
Paul Geller: That does happen and I always encourage people to hang in there. During my initial consultations with clients, I always find myself saying, “One of the most difficult things that you’re going to have to deal with at this point is that it’s not an overnight process.” The criminal court system is not set-up to handle a case within days. It just isn’t.
Now every once in a blue moon there might be a situation where I’m having the good perspective of what the case is worth – perhaps prosecutors have missed something, perhaps I feel as though I can quickly negotiate a case away based on the exposure of my client before it gets any worse. That might be a situation where the case is handled very quickly. As I said, I can count on one hand the number of times that has happened.
If anything, there are a handful of times where I have prevented that, or I have been successful in making sure that the case is handled swiftly and quickly, more so in situations where the prosecution has decided not to file a charge. That’s generally because my client has come to me right away and we’ve been able to prevent further investigation that might be detrimental to my client.
I always tell clients, “You have to let me do my job. That’s what you’re paying me for. Let me work the system and work the case through the process that it needs to be worked through.” The arrests are, in the event that has already occurred, generally the worst part of the experience.
Understanding the anxiety that just having a case out there may cause stress. That’s really, I think, where my ability to kind of relate to my clients and my bedside manner, if you will, come into play, because I do try to create that type of a relationship and rapport with my clients. Being able to ease some of that anxiety is important because it helps me then do my job better and get better results for my clients rather than having them so uptight and so concerned that they just want to throw in the towel.
Instead, oftentimes when that does present itself, I say, “Listen, I think I can do better for you, but you have to let me work the case.” I do find myself saying that sometimes, but the majority of my clients seem to get that. I don’t know if that’s simply because I do mention this in consultations and I make myself accessible for clients.
I find myself answering emails all the time that simply say, “Hi Paul. I just wanted to know what, if anything, is happening on the case?” I’ll send a quick email back just to keep them in the loop and I encourage that just because I do understand they have anxiety.
Interviewer: What do you think makes people afraid to even call an attorney in the first place?
Paul Geller: One reason is fear of delving into the unknown of hiring a lawyer, especially with younger people. I think they may go on the Internet and get misguided or improper information. You can certainly go online and find all kinds of information about everything involving criminal defense, much of which may not even apply to the jurisdiction or the locale where that person is and oftentimes that information is wrong.
That may dissuade them from talking to or hiring an attorney. Because of the sheer volume of online traffic for lawyers, trying to find someone can be overwhelming to the point that they’re stagnant. So, I think talking to family and friends and asking about their experiences or if they know anyone can be extremely important.
I was on the phone last night with a current prosecutor whose family friend had just been arrested. So, asking family and friends can be extremely important. Then, when a situation like that would present itself, I always suggest to them to tell the potential client to go online to my website where they can get a better feel for me.
They can call me after hours or on weekends. The phone calls come to a cell phone that I carry so I can then be promptly responsive to the client or the potential client. They shouldn’t be scared to ask questions. The problem is finding the right person to ask questions to; that’s why I personally take the calls rather than having an answering service or an office manager, so to speak, try to answer those questions.
Another reason is cost, I’m sure. I know people are nervous about hiring an attorney based on cost. As much as possible, I try to offer an opinion and be as helpful as possible to those people even if they’re not going to be able to afford me or anyone for that manner. At which point, I often do suggest to people not to waste their money on the lowest bidder, so to speak, because like anything in life, unfortunately, you get what you pay for.
That’s a real problem that I have with some of the defense attorneys out there that simply work on volume and send these mass mailers to people who have just been arrested and send some contract attorney to make an appearance because the person who’s been arrested can’t afford someone of quality. Now they’ve found themselves wasting, oftentimes, thousands of dollars and they’re being poorly represented and that’s not right.
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