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Archive for the month “October, 2012”

Ethics?

I recently had a situation where I found myself being asked to do something that I was not sure was in the person’s best interest. The person had every right to pursue the path. There was nothing ethically wrong with me assisting them in the pursuit, however the probability of the outcome being in the person’s best interest was low. I explained the probabilities to the person and they still wanted to pursue the path. I would note that the person was very emotional about the situation and it was hard to tell if their thinking was primarily driven by emotion or reason.

I reviewed the situation with a close friend that I often discuss business with. He is not an attorney, but he is a pure capitalist of the Vanderbilt vein. He often gives me blunt and straight forward business advice. So I speak to my friend about the situation. I give him general information in the form of an analogy so that he can have enough information to ascertain the positions and dilemma in the quandary, but not enough information for him to know the entire story or to compromise the attorney client privilege.

Mr. Capitalist was straight forward in his responses. “Does the client have the money to pay for your services?”

I responded “yes”.

He continued “Does the client fully understand the possible negative consequences?”

I respond “I explained it to him on at least two occasions and he appears to understand the risk”.

He next asked “Is there any ethical or legal prohibition preventing you from doing what he is asking?”

I respond “No”.

Then he concludes “Well take the money and get to work before he realizes that he is making a grave error!”

I paused. Then I responded, “I just do not feel as if this is the most prudent path.”

Mr. Capitalist appeared somewhat frustrated and exhorted ” Well you are not in business to feel good. Business is about making money.”

We moved on to other topics, however the subject and Mr. Capitalist’s statements stayed in the forefront of my mind.

Ultimately, I talked to the client one additional time and further explained my concerns about his chosen path and although he was ready to proceed and the funds were available for payment I told him to think it over for a couple of days. I then proceeded to prepare a retainer agreement and a corresponding addendum (disclaimer) for him to sign indicating that I fully explained to him all of the possible negative consequences and the probability of one or more of those negative consequences resulting from the clients desired path.

The entire ordeal made me think a lot about my new vocation as a criminal defense attorney. I fully understand that I have transitioned from an employee to a business man (a “Business Man” in the business of law). So how do I prioritize the need and desire to make money with ultimate desire to feel as if I am helping people? This question is easily answered when a client is asking me to engage in unethical or illegal conduct the answer is simply “NO”. However, how do you balance these competing interest when the client is just making a questionable decision. If I owned a restaurant and someone came in and ordered something that would be disgusting to most of the world and may turn their stomach, I can easily say “Well that is what they ordered.” However, I am not a restaurateur and I work in a field where people can lose their liberty for a long period of time. Therefore, simply saying “Well that is what they ordered” does not cut it.

Just a few random thoughts on ethics.

The Grind

The practice of law reflects the same ups and downs as any other business. However in the practice of law as a solo practitioner you are obligated to maintain your effectiveness as an attorney all while trying to make good sound business decisions to allow your practice to grow. The first thing I noticed after leaving the District Attorney’s Office after ten years of service was that empty feeling I felt when I looked at the calendar and it had finally sunk in that those every other Fridays when money magically appeared into my account (direct deposit) were over. Actually, I still teach so I do receive some money in that fashion, but my primary income has to be found and earned.

Now after I realized that the biweekly contributions the county once made to my bank account had ceased, I next wondered, well where do I get money from now. From that point on I began to think (or at least try to think) like a business man. I actually went to some chamber of commerce events, and other business networking events in an attempt to help change my mindset from public employee to self employed (in the business of Law) Lawyer. These early seminars did help some I had never thought much about overhead (the county just handed me supplies and anything I needed there was a form or invoice to fill out), Marketing, or building stronger relationship in your community to increase your referrals. I further learned about the importance of Internet Marketing, Google AdWords, SEO and something called the Google Algorithm. I had to quickly adapt and discovery the meaning of all of these terms because they have a critical effect on how I am going to progress and grow my practice. No I have not mastered these ideas or terms, I just have enough of a working knowledge of these terms to have a superficial conversation, and to know when a marketing sales man is full of $hit. In addition, to learning about marketing and running a business I also received a few referrals from these meetings. The referrals I received alone made the experience worth my time. In addition, I crossed paths with several people in the community that I had known in my past, but I had lost touch with do to the complications of life.

So Why do I say “Grind”, well my new life requires me to think about generating income every chance I get, and as a practicing attorney I do not have a lot of time between meeting with clients preparing for court and going to court. However all the work and clients I have are based on past efforts and if I do not keep “grinding” I will look up and I will be out of work, which means out of income. I have been blessed thus far, and with the help of several people in the legal community, and several friends and associates I have been able to stay productive and busy. However, I am slowly realizing that I will have to be on my “grind” for a while. I had a month were I had several new clients all sign up in the first two weeks of the month. I was happy and thought I had reached some new milestone, gotten over some hump and things were about to become steady and consistent. I started diligently working on those cases and I stopped doing the things that ultimately led those clients to my door step. After a few weeks I noticed that I had not had a new client in a while. I went back through my books and confirmed it, at that point I realized that I have a long way to go and a lot more “grinding” to do.

Being on the “Grind”, is fun, scary, exciting and liberating all in one. You spend several weeks working and it appears there is no yield in sight. Then you have a week when you do not have enough time to answer all of the calls and schedule all of the meetings. That can easily be followed by a week of no new business. I am learning to weather the storms, and to enjoy the sunshine a little, but not to much because there will always be another storm when you are on the “Grind”.

photo of Donte

Donte T Wyatt

Law Offices of Donte T Wyatt

2550 5th Ave

San Diego, CA, 92103

6198079505
Criminal Attorney, DUI, Narcotics

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