An out of town felony probationer, who was charged with misdemeanor shoplifting, who had just a few weeks left before completing said probation, called me nearly in tears asking me whether or not I thought the probation might expire before “they” found out about the potential new arrest.

Obviously, the concern about a felony revocation, with potential prison time as a punishment, was more pressing than even the new charge. Equally obvious, to me, was (a) that this question ultimately has to be placed in the “things we have no control over” file, and (b) consultation with a local criminal defense lawyer ASAP is needed. A local lawyer won’t be able to promise or guarantee anything either, but will be much more knowledgeable about local procedures, etc.

I made a referral, by which I mean, I told her the name of a lawyer I would consider hiring in the same circumstances. I thought that would be the end of it (it usually is).

The person called back. They had spent a good deal of time on the phone with said lawyer, and came away somewhat comforted and sufficiently impressed. This was the lawyer they wanted to hire. Then the lawyer quoted them $X thousand, up front no payment plan.

Potential client(PC) wanted to know whether I thought the lawyer would take half up front and the rest on payments. This was a new one to me. I’ve had occasions where folks call back and ask if I know a cheaper, but still good attorney in their neck of the woods. I told PC that I couldn’t negotiate on someone else’s behalf.

I thought that would be the end of it, but through the long distance phone calls come several more ideas about how this other lawyer might accept partial payments. Clearly, I have failed to make it clear that I can’t set someone else’s price, or payment conditions. After several reiterations of that concept, I decide to use a new tack.

Me: Let’s say you were looking for a bigger, nicer house to buy. Your neighbor tells you about a house he thinks is perfect for you. Just what you’re looking for. You go and check it out, but the owner’s are asking for waaaaaay too much money.

This is like you going back to your neighbor and asking them to lower the price of the house.

PC: Well, actually, many times real estate agents will cut their commission just to get a deal done. Sometimes both agents will discount and that lowers the price substantially.

Real estate agents? I’m in the business of persuading, of at least getting folks – prosecutors or jurors – of seeing my point, my side of the story. Am I really this incapable of explaining something so simple?

Me: I’m the neighbor. I’m not the agent. I’M THE NEIGHBOR!

Raising one’s voice is not an effective method of persuasion, but this time it seemed to do the trick. Afterwards, I had to explain to my assistant exactly how it came to pass that I was shouting “I’m the Neighbor!” repeatedly into my speakerphone.