As long as you are living in the USA, and find it necessary to deal with the legal system, it is important to keep some things in mind to protect yourself.
A few lawyers try to be ethical and helpful, within the limits of their fears, even though they still won't fight corruption and bribery by other lawyers and judges. But with so many millions of victims of legal corruption in the USA, it's better to be mentally prepared for the worst when dealing with lawyers.
Assume that 50% or more of the USA lawyers whom you meet, are psychopaths who have accepted a job inside the world's biggest criminal mafia.
In the case you cannot afford a lawyer and are assigned a 'public defender' after being arrested, assume as well, that there is a 50% or more chance the lawyer will have the goal of railroading you into conviction and jail on a 'plea bargain', rather than try to defend your innocence.
When you meet a USA lawyer, for the first time, think of him as someone who is trying to take your money and outright defraud you, whilst doing as little as possible for you. Assume he has no desire to rock the political boat in your community, no desire to fight the politically-connected mafia that may be attacking you.
Always remember: USA lawyers are used to taking money from people when they are desperate and vulnerable - that is exactly the time for lawyers to pounce, and squeeze money out of a person in trouble.
Don't ever expect an American lawyer to accomplish much of anything, other than helping avoid the judge's anger and ability to take revenge at you if you didn't have a lawyer there with you. The judge wants you to have a lawyer to 'stage manage' you, to help him direct the fraudulent 'theatre' which is the USA courtroom.
Remember that nearly all lawyers, regardless of what they say, are submissive to the judges, to the government, to rich people, and to representatives of big, politically-connected corporations.
Regardless of what you pay a lawyer, your so-called lawyer will often easily betray you, and cut a dirty deal on the side with the other lawyers for the government or the big company, and will usually follow the judge's secret instructions and demands.
If it is any consolation, know that the gang of lawyers for the other side, are usually also defrauding the rich people and corporations whom they are helping to victory, inflating their legal fees and stretching out the case so that it costs the rich people and companies tens or hundreds of thousands more than expected. Sometimes the whole case was fabricated and incited by the lawyers themselves, to squeeze and defraud more funds from a wealthy client whom they know has a lot of funds to spend.
Remember that all promises, words, and even written contracts by lawyers, are worthless. American lawyers are the biggest liars in the world, above all to their own clients. Lawyers will sign written contracts, take your money, cash your cheque, and then instantly tell you they will not honour the contract, and not return your money, and then may even threaten to sue you if you don't keep your mouth shut about how they defrauded you. Yes, things like that actually happen.
Your problem is that, even if a lawyer commits clear fraud against you and violates his written contract, you still cannot find another lawyer to sue the first lawyer, and if you go to court, the judge will usually cover up for the fraud and theft by the lawyer, and rule against you. The same goes for the lawyer complaint office at the Bar and Bar ethics boards, which are run by the judges and senior gangster lawyers, as noted in other questions above. That's how it all works.
If you give a lawyer some money, kiss it goodbye, totally. Even if he does nothing, he will often keep all the money. The lawyer will tell lies and claim he did 'many hours of research' for you, and the judges and the Bar will back up his lies.
Lawyers are basically only loyal to clients, who are able to keep paying them large amounts of more money in the future. This is the only kind of relationship where the lawyer is forced to have some respect for you, and where you have some hope of trusting him. If you give a lawyer a large amount of money in one big lump, and he doesn't expect another big lump from you because he knows you are now broke, he basically kisses you goodbye in his mind, and already starts looking for his next 'big ticket', which may be a bribe from the other side, in the very same case for which you just paid him.
So try not to pay your lawyer in a big lump - pay him in stages, in small amounts, once or twice a month, so that he is worried you will fire him, and become a cash cow for some other lawyer instead.
Beware of a lawyer charging you for 'research and review', or even charging you for a first initial meeting - this is often a sign the lawyer has no intention of fighting for you, but wants to steal some of your funds anyway. There are hugely sleazy lawyers out there who sometimes do almost no legal work in court although claiming to be involved in 'litigation' - they make their funds from 'meetings', and from alleged 'research and review'. There are even goofy recent law graduates telling you they won't represent you in court, but they will write you a 'legal research paper' on the 'issues in your case' in exchange for funds.
'Research and review' is a common lawyer scam. Money for nothing. The lawyer simply produces a 'memorandum' of cut-and-paste material out of the legal database, with a few extra words added. You could do the same thing for yourself.
The question of paying for the 'initial meeting' is dodgy. If it is a small amount, you sometimes perhaps learn something from the meeting. But if you have a substantial legal case with some thousands to spend, the lawyer should do the initial meeting for free ... or at least respond to you by e-mail as to what he thinks about representing you.
If you only have a few thousand to spare, you need to save that for an actual lawyer somewhat fighting for you. Don't waste it on a series of ten meetings with lawyers who won't ever help you, and give you the fake line that they need to do some 'research and review'.
Don't tell a lawyer how much money you have - he will scheme to ask for all of it. Keep your money a secret, and preferably some of it in a bank account in another country - although that is getting more difficult to do for US citizens. With a lawyer in America, just allow that you will 'try to find' the money he wants from you. Take a while to think about it, whether there are some signs or giveaways in your discussion with the lawyer, as to whether he is a con artist or fraud.
Never give a lawyer your last money that you have. It won't help you or save you. Lawyers tend to despise people who only have a little bit of money. Better to use that last little bit of money for personal needs, or possible escape out of the state or country. I was able to escape the USA with some assets, as the lawyers threatening to murder me were too stupid to consider I had bank accounts in Europe about which I never told them.
If you do have some significant amount of money, more than a few thousand dollars that you can easily carry, then you may wish keep some assets in a form so that American lawyers and lawsuits can't so readily find it. Gold and silver are one form of asset holding like this, also foreign bank accounts. Rich people do this, and you should do this, too, even if it's just some ten thousand dollars or more. It's much harder for the lawyers to grab your money in a foreign country, as foreign countries know the American legal system is a joke, a farce and a fraud, and American court judgments are not automatically recognised in many other nations.
A lot of Americans have been saved much grief, because they kept their money in foreign banks or in precious metals buried somewhere. America is not a safe place for your money, because of the crazy legal system. But at the same time, there are cases where judges and lawyers force you to say, under penalty of perjury, whether you have assets in precious metals or in foreign accounts. If you do have foreign accounts, you need to disclose them on your USA tax returns, and judges and lawyers might seize your copies of these. Sometimes judges who think people have foreign money, jail the people until they transfer the money to the judge's gangster lawyer friends. That is how it goes in the USA.
Your main purpose in hiring a lawyer, is first of all so the judge won't be angry with you and take revenge on you because you refused to hire a lawyer. But always be prepared that the lawyer will tend to betray you to the other side or the government, if you are in any kind of conflict with the government or someone who is richer than you. Your goal is first to keep the costs down, not giving too much money to the lawyers; and secondly, while your lawyer slowly sells you out to the other side, you try to make it so your lawyer doesn't sell you out too badly.
In the case of your being without funds and having a 'public defender' lawyer, the first thing to understand is this public defender is usually very 'overworked', with far too many cases, and often he or she is only paid a fixed amount per case. So his incentive is to do as little work as possible for each person who has been arrested.
Secondly, to keep his job as a public defender, the lawyer must usually 'play the game' with the judges and prosecutors, which means sending as many of his clients to jail as possible. The majority of people jailed actually never get a trial, but only a plea-bargain extortion via the 'public defender'.
Typically, there comes a point the public defender says something such as, 'Look, I know you're innocent. But the judge is really out to get people like you. Here's the best deal I have. You plead guilty, you get 3 to 5 years in prison, tops. You go to trial, you maybe get sentenced to 25 years. What do ya wanna do?' And then you agree to 'plead guilty', and you get sentenced to 7 to 10 years. 'But that wasn't the deal!' you shout. 'That wasn't the deal I heard about. Court is adjourned!'
Obviously, in general, you want to avoid going near courtrooms and lawyers in America. Often, nearly everybody loses, except the lawyers.
If you do need a lawyer, smart or clever lawyers are not that important. What is more important for 'legal victory' is lawyers with connections to the judges who can pay the bribes that are needed, or on the other hand, the rare brave lawyer willing to fight, within the limits of the system and not losing his or her law licence. But it's getting harder and harder for USA lawyers to carry on any kind of a fight at all, given how rigged USA courtrooms have become.
Don't let your lawyer know how smart you are, about him or about the crooked system. Lawyers and judges hate people who talk directly about bribery, or about games lawyers play. You will be safer with the lawyers, if you appear to be someone stupid whom they can manipulate. Lawyers and judges have big egos, and like to think they are experts at manipulating and deceiving and dominating other people. Pretending to play along with lawyers, while guarding your money and your personal safety, may even save your life in America. Hopefully you will not be in the same situation as me, needing to escape to another country, just to stay alive in the face of USA judges and lawyers threatening to murder me.
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