Ethics and the Law: A Real Change - By Robert Pelton

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Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

We hope with Buck Files the State Bar will pay more attention to the criminal bar. There are over 3,000 members in the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, 600 members in the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association, and many others in the local bar associations throughout Texas. HCCLA, under the leadership of Earl Musick, has taken action in many ways, including meeting with the Sunset Commission in Austin with Cowboy Lawyer Gary Trichter and lawyer Robb Fickman, Czar of Texas. Ever since I began practicing law, I have heard lawyers complaining, but few ever took action. That is changing with lawyers like Gary, Earl, Robb, and others. According to Buck Files, only 20% know about the State Bar hotline. That is simple to understand. It has not been properly publicized and it has banking hours. TCDLA and HCCLA hotlines never close, and we have already helped many of our fellow members.

Many years ago at a DWI seminar, we were all honored that Percy Foreman, Richard “Racehorse” Haynes, and Warren Burnett were in attendance. Charles Tessmer was there in spirit. Lawyer Haynes was bragging on Gary Trichter and telling Percy Foreman all the issues Gary and others were raising. Percy was very attentive because he, the greatest lawyer in the world, had been convicted of DWI. Warren Burnett and Charles Tessmer were known to take a drink on social occasions. Today, a DWI can bring as many issues as a murder case—like the ALR hearing, possible occupational license, possible ALR appeal, possible DWI appeal, and motions that need to be filed. Some lawyers attempt to charge a flat fee for all these things. Some lawyers charge a fee for each item. Do you want a telephone hearing or an in-person hearing? If an in-person, do the officers get subpoenas to use ALR discovery device? When going to all these hearings, remember they are all grievances waiting to happen if you miss a date. Make sure you have a calendar system or have alerts on your computer.

With Buck Files as leader, we hope more attention will be paid to the criminal bar. The bar journal is filled with many good articles if your interests are contract, real estate, civil matters, or back-patting. Leaders of the criminal bar from the Houston area like Gary Trichter, Earl Musick, Robert Fickman, Chris Tritico, and many others from around the state have and are making great strides to let the bar and judges know we take our job seriously. If we lose a case, it is not just money, but about someone being locked in a cage and being branded a criminal for life. Pay attention to the timelines on all of your cases. Get a good system set up whether on a day-planner or on your computer.

Below are subjects we will be writing about. If you have ques­tions about one of these topics, please call the hotline.

1.  How to get business/bail bondsmen/referral fees
2.  How to set and collect fees
3.  Contracts or letter of acknowledgment
4.  Contempt
5.  Conflict of interest
6.  Attorney/client privilege
7.  Gifts to judiciary
8.  Ex-parte communications
9.  Grievance process
10.  How to set up a file
11.  Investigate, polygraph
12.  Tape-recording
13.  Motions to withdraw
14.  Pretrial publicity
15.  What to say and not say to press
16.  Personal habits—alcohol/drug problems
17.  Act like a lawyer
18.  Books that will help
19.  Seminars
20.  Board certification
21.  College of State Bar
22.  Advertising
23.  Closing practice
24.  Selling practice
25.  Keep records of client conferences, jail visits, phone calls, work done, work done by attorney (even if it is a fee contract, you may have to account for fee)
26.  Be careful what you say: Be careful in elevator or hallways
27.  Keep personal business personal
28.  Be careful trading work for legal service
29.  Suing client
30.  Check on requirements of pro-bono work
31.  Have list for client: go to church, AA, NA, job, school, medical, get work records
32.  Avoid burnout
33.  Do not bad-mouth other lawyers
34.  Check out clients’ background: social study, family tree
35.  Do not tell client you are judge’s best friend—even if you are
36.  Call court if running late
37.  Facebook, Twitter, social networking
38.  Blogs
39.  Building and maintaining a website
40.  Keep your word

Being a lawyer can be a rewarding, but it is a stressful job and it is important to make sure your client’s interests are looked after. While doing this, take care of your own health and well-being. Remember no one is indispensable.