Stephen G. Cobb - Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer

Client Education Series Your Agreement For Legal Representation


Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

Welcome back. And to begin with, we are going to cover what is known as an agreement for representation. Now, the original Florida Bar contract that they provide for lawyers to use with their clients for legal services covers a lot of different areas including personal injury, family law and things of this nature. What we have done is we have taken out most of those things that do not relate to criminal law in order to simply the agreement for representation so that it does not run on for 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 pages. That’s a little bit too much and written plea agreements in felony court basically say the same thing about 20 times. And I did not want to do that with our agreements for representation.

So, let’s go down a list of various different things they are in all agreements for representation. First of all, we are going to list the defendant, the person we are actually representing. Now, at the same time, there may also be someone who is a separate party as a fee-payer. And the fee-payer will be listed as well. There are some attorney-client privileges that kick in. And so if you are a fee-payer and not the client, we will need special permission from the client to speak with you about the case but we also have to be very mindful about conflicts of interest, which are prohibited by the rules that regulate the Florida bar. So, that constitutes the parties. Then, you are going to come to a section that talks about what the legal fee is based upon and there is a whole laundry list of things that range from the amount of time it takes to the novelty of the legal questions presented in a particular case. So, those are going to be set forth in your agreement for representation. There is also going to be an area that covers the distinction between a legal fee and a cost. So, what is the difference? A legal fee is what goes to the law firm and the lawyers whereas a cost is what someone pays, what goes towards defense expenses.

If a court reporter is needed to take deposition testimony, which is sworn testimony similar to court but different in that it has a much broader scope, then they will charge a fee. If we need an expert witness, they will charge a fee. So, a legal fee is completely separate from the costs. You can imagine that they are on two sides of direct midnight on a clock. One side is cost, one side is fees. Now, many lawyers take a deposit against expenses for costs. Sometimes, we do that, sometimes we do not.

Next, you will notice in the fee agreement, there will be a section regarding other lawyers working on your case. Virtually everything that we do is a team effort. Why is that? Well, a lot of lawyers do not want to pay to have another lawyer working on the case. In reality, there is no such thing as super lawyers, they do not exist. And my belief is and has been for a long time that rule 3.112, a rule of procedure you have never heard of but talks about capital cases, this rule requires a second lawyer in a death penalty case and I think as a matter of practice, procedure and policy, it is always good to have a second lawyer looking at your case, whether it is a felony or a misdemeanor. I would love to tell you I am a super lawyer and I wear a cape and that I can magically make things happen but you know what the reality is, it is hard freaking work that makes the difference. And with having a second set of experienced eyeballs on a particular pleading, research etc., that can make all the difference in somebody’s criminal case. So, virtually every case that is handled by the firm is handled by a team. Does that mean I am not involved? Not at all. I personally supervise each and every case. I just want to make sure that you or someone you love gets the representation that they deserve. And the way to do that is to dot all the I’s, cross all the T’s and to do it correctly. Thus, we have basically expanded rule 3.112 to every single case because I think you deserve the best representation.

Next, you will notice a section in the fee agreement that is going to talk about refunds. And the reality is there are no refunds in criminal defense that the fee is earned upon retention. This is language that comes directly from the Florida Bar. Now, why would we do that? Well, it is very simple. In criminal defense law, if you do not get your fee upfront, you do not get paid. Next and finally, you will notice that there is a supplemental section that talks about additional fees for unneeded appointments. What am I talking about there? Well, this is because sometimes, people will want to have a chat session or an emotional, mental health therapy session rather than use coping with stress during the criminal prosecution. This is called “How to waste your lawyer’s time and destroy your legal fee”, we do not think that is a good idea.

When you are eating up legal fees because of stress and you are asking the same question over and over again, or you are not asking questions at all but simply venting stress, that tells us immediately that you are not using the stress protocol. Now, I understand that some of the biggest power firms in the world do not use the stress protocol. They would rather have you come into the office for an office chat because they teach their lawyers, their practice managers to sniff out opportunities to upsell you, to resell you and to cross-sell you additional legal services. Personally, I think you retained us to produce the result. And we cannot guarantee a result. In fact, that is prohibited by the bar. But what we have to do is make sure that we have a system for everything including stress. So, if you want us to be mental health therapist, number one, we are not qualified, and number two, it wastes your legal fee; number three, it takes time away from defending the case. So, in those scenarios when people want that extra time, that is not necessary for keeping the client informed, that is not necessary to answer questions related to the case, then we are going to charge additional.

And our goal is not to charge you additional at all. We do not want to do that. What we do want is for you to use the protocol for coping with stress during the criminal prosecution. So, these are the elements of a standard agreement for representation. They are going to be slightly different in your case just like they are different in other cases because your case may be a misdemeanor, maybe a felony, may be a violation of probation, may be a violation of community control. But whatever it is, these are the basics of your agreement for representation. And if you have any questions about it, by all means contact us. Call us on the priority number for existing clients and talk to one of the lawyers and I am available to discuss your agreement for representation.

Disclaimer: This article is in response to questions frequently asked of Mr. Cobb and is an unedited dictation transcript. Just like talk to text on your smartphone, there may be misspelled words or sentence fragments.

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Stephen G. Cobb, Esq.

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