Many Law Firms do not Provide Quality Representation for Traffic Cases
At Leavitt & Martin, we are in traffic court almost every day for traffic and reckless driving charges. I have been practicing law for over 8 years and I have successfully defended thousands of clients with traffic matters. I frequently see poor representation. Some of the common mistakes I see fall into one of the following two categories:
- systemic issues related to how the law firm is set up
- inexperience in traffic court
At the end of this post I will provide two examples where quality representation made a real difference.
Systemic Issues With Law Firms
In my opinion, there are many problems with how firms operate that contributes to poor representation. Here is a list of common problems:
1. the law firm does TOO MANY cases and things slip through the cracks
This is a big problem. I see law firms go before the judge and they just don’t have a good reputation with the other lawyers or with the court. And a big reason for that is that they are fighting to charge the lowest fee, and they try to make it up on volume. The problem with high volume firms is that they cannot keep track of all their clients and mistakes get made ALL the time. I am tracking a firm now whose client actually was issued a WARRANT for not showing up to court when they apparently retained a firm and that firm never notified the court.
Those high volume firms frequently do not send letters of representation to the court and they are constantly filing MOTIONS TO REOPEN. The sheer number of mistakes that these firms make, in large part because they have too many cases, often leads to convictions and bad results.
We were just retained on TWO cases where the prior lawyers completely messed up our out of state client’s reckless driving cases. In both cases, it was a simple reckless driving Virginia first offense. But the cases were handled improperly.
2. there are too many people involved in the case
This is a major issue. The attorney on your case needs to be familiar with the facts of your case. If there are too many people involved in the handling of a case, then mistakes FREQUENTLY happen.
Many firms have a secretary or paralegal talk to potential clients. Then you get passed on to an associate at the firm, or maybe even the law partner whose name is on the letterhead. But if the firm has a number of associates, then who is actually handling your case? Is the same person handling your case from start to finish?
What happens with this system, is that Attorney 1 often takes the call. Then on the court date, Attorney 2 will pick up a file and go to court. Attorney 2, who is handling the case, is relying on notes from Attorney 1 as well as paralegals. What this means is there are TOO MANY LINKS IN THE CHAIN, and mistakes happen. There is no accountability.
I see this come up all the time in firms with more than two attorneys. Whoever goes to court has no clue about their own client and the case goes south and the client gets hurt by that system.
Make sure the law firm you hire are specialists in traffic law, and that they don’t hire associate attorneys. It is bad enough that a lawyer would do the above, but it frequently happens. Many law firms take your money, and then send a NEW LAWYER (less than 5 years of practice) to court. So make sure the firm you hire does not have associates since cases get PASSED AROUND, and it could be your case that falls through the cracks.
3. the law firm allows paralegals and legal assistants (not an actual lawyer) give legal advice (unethical) and land cases
If you call a law firm, and you don’t speak with an attorney then you should run the other way. It is a major red flag. Only attorneys can provide legal advice. However, some law firms allow their secretaries to consult with potential clients. Legal secretaries and legal assistants and paralegals cannot practice law. They cannot go to court and they cannot provide legal advice. If you talk to a firm that has this systemic issue where they are allowing that to happen, it should be a red flag.
4. the law firm hands cases off to other attorneys
This issue is related to number two because there are too many people involved with the case. I was in court the other day, and an attorney who is known for charging higher fees sent Attorney 2 to court with his cases. Attorney 2 handed the cases off to Attorney 3, who quite frankly did not know how to handle the case. So I watched Attorney 3 get the client convicted on a case where that just would never have happened if we were handling the case.
Interestingly, this attorney who landed the case markets with the language that he and his “trusted team of traffic lawyers” will handle the case. In my opinion, what that means is he will charge a high fee, then pay a lawyer a low fee to handle the case in court. In my experience that is a bad way to handle cases a client has entrusted you with.
Inexperience in Traffic Court
I see this all the time with other firms. They hire new lawyers who recently passed the bar exam, and who have NO experience to speak of, to handle your case in court. So when you call the firm, you are probably going to talk to an experienced lawyer who has done a lot of cases. They can tell you intelligently what to expect in court. But then when it comes time for the court date, the firm sends a NEW LAWYER to handle your case in court.
You should insist that any lawyer who is going to handle your case in court have AT LEAST FIVE YEARS OF EXPERIENCE IN TRAFFIC COURT. It takes about five years of doing dedicated work in traffic court to gain the experience necessary to be effective.
These new lawyers don’t know what they are doing in a lot of cases and they make a LOT of errors. Some errors are worse than others. The bad errors result in a conviction. The not-so-bad errors just make the law firm look bad and hurt their reputation.
Insist on Speaking to the Lawyer Who is Handling Your Case in Court
You should get a guarantee that a law partner with at least FIVE years of experience is going to handle your case in court. This should ensure that the lawyer has the experience necessary to provide quality representation.
Don’t get fooled by the law firm where you speak to someone with experience, but they send a new lawyer to court.
See the Real Difference that an Intelligent Approach Can Make to a Case
Leavitt & Martin Case:
Different Law Firm, Not a Smart Approach and a MUCH DIFFERENT OUTCOME
Every case is different and past results do not guarantee or predict future results.