June 4, 2015

Who needs a criminal defense attorney?

While reading the New York Post this morning I read about some people in my community were who indicted for securities fraud. In fact, some of these guys are literally in my backyard. Steven Fishoff, Paul Petrello, Ronald Chernin, and Steven Costanin were charged with  ripping off unidentified bankers to the tune of $3.2 million dollars. I have seen these types of releases so many times I won’t get more into the case. If you have interest read the article.

My point in writing this short piece is to tell these gentlemen that the steps they take today will heavily influence their outcome. In fact, I am sure that as I write this at least one of them is taking action, lawyering up and cutting a deal. Others are living in “la la land” telling friends and family this morning that they did nothing wrong, and that the government has totally overreached. I suspect I know how this will end. The length of their prison terms will be influenced by each decision they make today. For the sake of their families, I hope they all act wisely. That is the best prison advice I can give today. This process is always harder on those that love and support us.

I presume these guys are looking for quality lawyers. To help them, I created a series of questions they should pose to any lawyer they interview. I should note we have posed these same questions to lawyers who will be joining, Etika Connect, our specialized 250 lawyer directory. This directory will feature only 250 lawyers across the whole country. Unlike Avvo or Martindale, or other legal directories, that features every lawyer, we are inviting lawyers who fit our criteria. In Los Angeles, for example, we plan to add less than 10 lawyers. That way when the thousands of people who visit our sites every month need help, they will see their options. We will have vetted the best.


Since these guys are in LA, I suggest they interview Alan Eisner, Mark Werksman, Joel Athey (my criminal lawyer), and David Willingham (a former U.S. Attorney who arrested yours truly). These guys are smart, have tons of experience, and as important, they are not so damn desensitized to this process. I can assure you Alan, Mark, Joel and David can easily answer the questions below.


  1. Please describe your typical caseload?
  2. What provisions do you have in place for vacations or if you suddenly become saturated with other cases?
  3. Describe an example of misconduct you have experienced by legal counsel that has opposed you:
  4. Do you have references I can check?
  5. How much experience do you have in federal court?
  6. Do you charge hourly or is the fee inclusive?
  7. Who would be the primary contact for our clients if it isn’t you?
  8. Please describe your team:
  9. What would the interface be like and how would they typically communicate with the client: Phone/Email/Text/In-person? All of the above
  10. Describe the typical relationship you have with the majority of your clients after sentencing:
  11. Do you remain available to a client’s spouse to help clean up remaining issues if your clients go to prison?
  12. Describe your typical payment schedule:
  13. Have you ever had any ethical complaints or state bar issues?
  14. What do you consider is a reasonable amount of time to be prepared ahead of an arraignment or sentencing hearing?
  15. How do you typically brief your clients with updates on the timeline as you perceive it?

Justin Paperny

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