How to Negotiate: Replace Lawyers with Vending Machines

The new lawyer negotiator
Why do some prosecutors even bother?

Nobody is gettin’ off easy if those slimy defense attorneys can’t work deals

You would think lawyers learn how to negotiate in law school.  They don’t, though.  You only learn things about the law in law school.    You learn how to do legal research, so you can teach yourself the stuff about law that they never taught you in law school (which, by the way, is a lot of damn stuff).  Then you get that first bad legal job, so you can learn how to apply all that stuff you’ve learned (and learned how to learn) in the real world.  And, when you work at that first bad job, you not only learn how to apply that knowledge, but you learn that not everything is black-and-white.

If you go into criminal law, the fact that not everything is “black-and-white” can ruin your life.  Just because somebody was shot, doesn’t mean they were murdered.  Just because a police report says somebody was driving and drunk, doesn’t mean they’re always going to be guilty of DUI/OUI.  Just because you know the cops violated your client’s Miranda rights doesn’t mean the judge is going to throw out your case.

We live in the grey area.  That’s why the cops hate us. They make an arrest because they “know” somebody is guilty.  It’s black-and-white to them.  If we can convince a prosecutor it’s not as solid as the cops think, though, then we’ve got room to negotiate.  Negotiating is as much the lawyer’s craft as trial skills are.

Criminal law has become more about negotiating than anything else.  Just ask the Supreme Court.  Unless, of course, prosecutors have “an office policy.”

Man, I hate “office policy.”  “Office policy” is how a prosecutor in court tells you that he’s not interested in negotiating because, quite frankly, his boss won’t let him.  This happens when some boss somewhere decides every case of that type should be treated the same- despite the fact that the cases aren’t the same.  And, the boss is never the one in court doling out this “office policy” news.

Don’t get me wrong- I’m not talking about getting a “you’ll have to talk to my supervisor about that” if you’re trying to work something out on a dicey case.  Or even getting something like “we don’t make offers on sex cases.”  I’m talking about when some low-ranking prosecutor tells me they can’t really talk to me about some piddly, dumb, misdemeanor or petty offense. Like speeding, or underage consumption of alcohol.  Then they say the same thing to other attorneys about different cases.  It’s as if they don’t have the discretion to negotiate anything.

Because they don’t.

This is starting to happen more and more.  Some people think that setting up office policy is a way prosecutors can be tough on crime.  They’ll show us, right?  Nobody is gettin’ off easy if those slimy defense attorneys can’t work deals.  No sweet-heart deals on speeding in this little Mayberry!

When will a new prosecutor learn how to negotiate if he never has the chance?

I’ve got an idea. It’s brilliant, really- Fire all of those prosecutors.  Not the ones pronouncing the brilliant, exhaustive policy.  Fire the ones who are marching down to court without the discretion to do a lawyer’s job.  The ones who are useless.

Did I just call them useless? Yeah. Useless.  That has a nice ring to it.

Look, I’m not meaning to slight them.  I’m really not.  It’s not their fault they can’t negotiate.  Although I might get frustrated with them in court, I know it’s not their policy.  They’re just doing what their bosses tell them.

They’re still useless, though.  In this era of mega-budget deficits and financial cliffs, I don’t see how “useless” fits in any budget.  I’m all about cutting waste, and some kid standing in front of a line of lawyers repeating “I can’t make an offer on that” or “Our policy is to offer you…” is completely wasteful.

You could fire the useless lawyers, replace them with some sort of a fancy machine or computer program that would dole out the bad offers, and save millions.  Defense attorneys could just walk up to the plea machine, punch in the statute of their case, and the plea machine could spit out the same useless offer (or non-offer) that the old prosecutor did.  You could even fire a whole bunch of public defenders.  With any luck, you’d even put a bunch of weirdos like me out of business.  “Why would I get a lawyer if I can work the plea machine myself?”

With all the money you’d be able to spend on more important things, think of how wonderful you could make the world.  You could use the money to feed the homeless or buy medication for the infirm.  You could fix roads and build infrastructure.  Hell, you could even supplement the salary of some of those poor, underpaid police officers who are barely able to make ends meet at $100,000 per year.

Or, you could just let lawyers do what lawyers should do in an imperfect world with imperfect cases: Negotiate.

Author: matthaiduk

Matt Haiduk is an uncooperative Criminal Defense Lawyer with offices in Kane County and McHenry County, Illinois. When he's not picking on people on the internet, he's playing frisbee with his dog or watching his girlfriend race bikes. Feel free to mock him on twitter or add him on Google+.

11 thoughts on “How to Negotiate: Replace Lawyers with Vending Machines”

  1. Hmmm!! Now everythng s so clear to me. Lets gve the lawyers all the rope they need to practce ther perfect craft n ths unperfect world. Let them contnue to negocate mult mullon dollar class acton suts for vctms that wll never get nearly enough money to put ther lves back where they were before the njury. Lets let the professon contnue to negocate wth judges so that ther blled hours sometmes s more than half of the entre class acton award . Wow what a perfect world that would be!!!!

  2. Would you prefer everythng was forced to tral? It would cost the taxpayers a whole HELL of a lot more money. And, as far as the crmnal system goes, there would be a lot more people "gettng off".

    I'm not the one who sad the crmnal justce system s a "system of pleas". Your Supreme Court sad that. If you beleve everythng should go to tral, I'm all for t. Just let the Supreme Court know that.

  3. Hello Matt I agree wth you that not all cases should be forced to tral, IMO most cases do not belong n our already over burdened court systems.Negocatng or more correctly knowng how to negocate s one of the most mportant sklls a lawyer can have n hs/her arsenal. I had ssues wth Broward Crcut Judge Leroy H Moe awardng Wlle E Gary of Florda $1000 an hour for hs class acton sut aganst Motorola. Another class acton sut n Florda , notably the Chnese Drywall Sut was settled and awarded $54,000,000, seems lke alot of money but then take away the lawyer fees and most home owners wll only get about $4000 each. Was ths the purpose of the lawsut? Look t up and you wll see that a large porton of the award went to the Law Frms that handled the case. I am sure that f most vctms knew n advance what ther compensaton would of been vs the Law Frm's they would of opted not to jon the class acton.

    1. Well, you're not gong to get much argument out of me that the class acton stuff s messed up. There are reasons why the lawyers can make so much money. Although, n theory, a lot of those reasons make sense, I'm wth you on the Class Acton system beng pretty well abused.

      Thankfully, t's a far cry from crmnal law. And where ndvdual people wth ndvdual rghts are facng accusatons backed by the entre force of the government's mght… well, I thnk that the prosecutors n court should be empowered to look at the facts of each case and make the proper offer.

  4. Excessvebal, what a mess our legal system s n. Maybe a complete overhaul s needed. Law schools keep churnng out new Lawyer at record numbers. Ther lterature keeps sayng that all ther graduates wll earn $160,000 a year, over 95% fnd jobs on graduaton. They pant a rosy pcture, why not, at $50,000 a sesson tuton fees who wouldn't. No where n ther glossy phamphlet does t say that major law frms have cut 20,000 jobs because of the economc downturn. In Canada some law students have even attempted to fle a class acton sut aganst certan Unverstes for gvng a very bas outlook on job opportuntes after graduatng from ther prestgous school. What s a law student to do once they amass a $200,000 student loan and a bleek job future. The lucky ones that land jobs n the bg frms fnd that they are stuck n a rat race. They have to bll 2000 hours and keep busness commng n. Is ths not a recpe for a good lawyer gong to the dark sde. Look up on google bllng hours for young lawyers and both the Amercan and Canadan gov'ts both feel ths s not n the clents' best ntrest. When Oct and Nov comes along and a young lawyer s behnd n hs bllable hours, wll he overbll hs present customers so that the Frms senor partners could upgrade ther Mercedes? I am beng a lttle dramatc but do you at least get the pont I am tryng to make. Ths proffesson was once a noble proffesson , s t any wonder why Lawyers and Insurance brokers always score at the bottom of the publc's trust.

    Just a closng note , one class acton sut wll bll many many hours for a lawyer!!! Hmmmm!

    1. Maybe f you're gong to post a spam lnk to somethng wth "ntegrty" n the ttle you could actually read the post frst? Maybe the relevance would be a lttle more obvous? Maybe?

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