Behind The Curtain On A Thriving Criminal Practice
My name is Mace Yampolsky. My firm is Yampolsky & Margolis I have been practicing in Las Vegas for over thirty-five years. I practice primarily criminal law, but we also do Dog Bite litigation. When I first started my firm, I just wanted to help people who could not help themselves, which is why I do criminal defense and dog bites need protection against the state or government and/or insurance companies. The insurance companies have mega dollars and millions of attorneys. The playing field is not even that bothers me. When I first started practicing, I did not know what I was doing. All I knew is that I wanted to help people and I wanted to eat.
When I opened my practice in 1986, what I did was I hustled. I did a little bit of anything, and then I finally gravitated towards the things that I liked more. When I grew up there were lots of Yellow Page ads, and Yellow Pages was expensive at that time. I did it for a while, but nobody uses the Yellow Pages anymore, they use the internet. But in the beginning, there was just a lot of face to face time. I would give people my cards. I would talk to other attorneys. I would try to make myself helpful. Some of these busier criminal attorneys had all these court appearances, and I would be glad to help them. I made court appearances for them. I never charged money. The way I looked at it was almost like a quid pro quo. I will do this for you. If you have a case that you do not want to handle, I would appreciate it if you would send it to me.
That was the philosophy. I believe you have to give it if you want to get. That worked. What is a good client? A good client is someone that needs your help, will listen to you when you give them advice and has the ability to pay you. You could be the greatest lawyer in the world, but if your clients do not pay you, you are going to go bankrupt.
You need someone to handle your search engine optimization (SEO) which puts keywords out there so potential can search for help. SEO is an art You must have good content. I write a weekly column. the Las Vegas Tribune, I write just about anything I want. Usually, it is something within the legal profession. I also write a blog. But frankly, I am so busy that it is tough. These days I do videos that I post on social media.
I had a client who hired me for a lot of stuff, paid me a lot of money, but the guy was an energy vampire. It is like no. He did not want to come into the office during office hours But, I don’t make house calls. house calls at ten o’clock at night. I just think it is important when you establish a relationship you need to set boundaries. I mean some lawyers may give their clients their cell phone. That would drive me nuts. I do not want them calling me on my cell phone at all hours of the night. I have an answering service so they can contact me 24/7 if necessary.
Time management is a big issue in any type of practice, especially a solo practitioner or a small practice, and a learned skill. You must concentrate on your top value activities. What are my top value activities? One is talking to potential new clients and having them become clients. Two is negotiating their cases, and talking with the District Attorney Three is going to trial. These are things that are really important, but if I spend all of my time answering my personal email I can no longer do so.
Regarding the media, there are the attorney-client privileges that one should never violate There is some authority that says that it even goes past the grave. That if you have client secrecy and the client dies you are not supposed to reveal any information about them. That is a pretty extreme position and it has never been tested as far as I am concerned, and it has never come up in my life. But there are some lawyers that think that way. What I have always tried to do is be interesting and talk succinctly without divulging confidential information. For example, my client believes when all the facts come out, he will be found not guilty. Or my client is extremely remorseful that this happened even though it was not his fault.
It is important to have good relationships with the media, and sometimes there are things that you just cannot say even though they want you to say it. Every print newspaper person, everyone that works for the TV, or any news service, they want to talk to your client. That is the last thing I will let them do. Even when they ask me, I laugh at them. It is my job to protect my client and that is one of the things that they absolutely should not do. I had a client that did not listen to me and gave an interview for the TV station while he was in jail. It was one of the reasons why he was convicted. All I can do is advise them. They do not have to listen to me and many times they do not.
I do not break client confidences. I usually will give an interview if I think it will be helpful to the client. It is important to be visible. People hire and refer people to lawyers they like, know, and trust. I can only meet so many people. But I have a blog, a social media presence and I do interviews on TV I also make videos and provide value to those that are interested
I am happy to talk to the media. I will not reveal anything that I think is going to be detrimental to my client. There are certain things that you need to do in the battle of public relations. The District Attorney does interviews all the time.
Everyone thinks that defendants are guilty anyway.
They must have done something even though that is not the law and even though people will say oh no, I understand there is a presumption of innocence, but I am not so sure. Especially in nasty cases like sexual assaults or crimes involving children. It is almost like you do have to prove yourself innocent. Everyone says oh you are a sleazy criminal defense attorney. I do not think criminal defense lawyers are sleazy for the most part. I had an ethics professor a long time ago who said if you never want to have an ethics problem, never lie, cheat or steal
Sounds pretty simplistic, but it is good advice. Sometimes questionable areas will come up, and I will call the BAR council and say look, here is the situation. I will not mention any names, but this client did this and this happened and blah blah blah and I am concerned. Can I do this or what do you think is the best way? Now it is not one hundred percent binding, but if I have called the BAR council and talked about a potential problem and I followed the BAR council’s advice, then I do not think I could be seen as someone who has done something unethical. I took the extra step and called. I talked to other lawyers. My feeling is that if they are going to make the decision, they are the people I want to refer to.
Nevada luckily still has a small enough BAR where you can call over to the council and you can actually talk to someone. In California that is not going to happen. There are over 150,000 lawyers and it is impossible to talk to anyone. You have to email everything. So that is a nice benefit of practicing in Nevada.
Everyone asks is it important to be nice? Is it important to be civil? I have mixed emotions. I do not think you should go out of your way to be a jerk, but I also think that if the choice is to zealously represent your client or be nice to the judge you need to zealously represent your client One man’s civility is another man’s zealous representation
California has it. I said yeah, but what is going to happen when I think I am zealously representing my clients.
It is important as the leader of the law firm to be consistent and do your job. Let your clients know you care. I mean yes, we want to do the best thing possible and sometimes they may not want to hear what you tell them, but I can get your obligation to tell them the truth. You do not have a crystal ball., You explain the facts The client decides whether they plea or go to trial, and if they go to trial they decide whether they take the stand or not. Everything else is my decision. A lot of them do not like that, but that is the way it is.
My firm tries to do everything within the bounds of the law to help our clients
We had a client that was a veteran that
Entered into a verbal pissing match with his neighbor who was also a veteran. My client was an Iraqi War veteran, the other guy was a Vietnam vet, and they both were disabled. They both had post-traumatic stress syndrome, and they hated each other. there is an allegation my client threw dog poop in the guy’s pool, and the police came out which is amazing because they do not even come out for residential burglaries. The adverse party must have had connections with the police department.
There was an allegation that my client pulled a gun on the other individual, and my firm believes he did not, but anyway, that was the allegation. SWAT came down and they told my client to come out. He told the police to get a warrant.
That was not so bad, but he mooned them. The knocked down his door, They broke his windows. They threw tear gas and they sent in the bomb-sniffing robots. My client was suffering PTSD and he freaked out. One of the robots went up the stairs and he knocked it down the stairs. He came downstairs and basically beat the crap out of the other one with a broomstick. The police came in, they tazed him, subdued him, and they charged him with assault with a deadly weapon, but they never found a gun. He was charged with felony destruction of property, because of the damage he caused to the robots. The District Attorney is saying well he can plead to this felony. I said I don’t think so have a self-defense argument.
The DA said You cannot have a self-defense argument with a robot. I said, watch me. If we go forward, I am calling the press on this one, because this is absurd. When everything was said and done, we pled our client guilty to a misdemeanor in veteran’s court. This is a special court that is set up to deal with veterans. This particular client was self-medicating by smoking marijuana prior to its legalization. It took a while, but he successfully graduated from veteran’s court. He was looking at an extensive prison sentence. We worked it out so it was a misdemeanor and he kept his veteran’s benefits and no jail time.
That was an interesting vignette that we did go the extra mile because we went back so many times to court and begged that he would not be arrested. The judge was a tough judge, but she used to be JAG corps, so she used to work as an attorney in the military and because of that, she was a little more sympathetic than most judges would have been.
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