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Military Law News Network – Beware of Military Lawyer Referral Networks. In this episode, court-martial defense attorneys Michael Waddington and Tim Bilecki discuss lawyer referral networks and how to spot them.

Below is a transcript for the YouTube video: Beware of Military Lawyer Referral Networks

Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 0:03

This is Michael Waddington with the military law news network. And today, what we want to talk about is these military law firms that are popping up across the country boasting multiple lawyers. They’re making it look like they have this in this deep bench of talent and skill. And in reality, what we have is just a bunch of lawyers that share a website and refer cases to each other. And I’m joined here today with attorney Timothy Blackie. Welcome, Tim. Hey, Mike, good to see you. Again.

Recently, we’ve been talking to clients calling us, and they’re talking with other attorneys. And several of them had mentioned that other law firms are telling military members that they should hire their firm because they have not one or two or three, but sometimes 678 910 lawyers, they’re gonna be working on their case. And they’re using this idea that if you hire us, you’re gonna have ten lawyers on your case, and for a super discounted price. And it sounds a little bit too good to be true. So we researched some of these, these firms that supposedly have many lawyers working for them. And what we’re finding is a disturbing trend. And you and I’ve been discussing this. Have you seen this out there in the Pacific?

Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 1:13

No, I have Mike, I see it all over the place. I find the trend kind of troubling and disturbing. Like you, I’ve been out of the military for over ten years now and have my practice. And we have a real law firm. At my law firm here in Honolulu, we have a quarter floor of a high rise as my law partner Noel. Upon, I have two associate attorneys and a full-time investigator. But that took me nine years to build to get to a point where I was working instead, from a Starbucks a laptop on a cell phone I started ten years ago to where I’m now that took ten years of building.

What I see now is I’ll see a website pop up for a military law attorney or a court-martial lawyer, and I will come up. He’ll be someone that just got out of the jag corps or was in the jag corps for three years or did one trial counsel position and look at their website, and six months later, they’ve got nine or 10 Associates, I’m like, Well, how does this happen? It took me nine years to build the firm. Am I just too slow at this that look at the website? What I’m seeing is a bunch of other attorneys, all of them, a lot of them don’t have a lot of strong credentials, a lot of them don’t have a big track record. And these are feeder firms. So what the main attorney does is he lists 678 attorneys, and that was the most of counsel. If you see the word of counsel, the red flag goes up, or we input the associated attorney.

And what if a call comes into that website, they will farm you out to one of these other attorneys. And what typically happens is they pay a referral fee. And so if the fee is $10,000, 4000 of that will usually go to the attorney that’s going to represent you 6000 frequently goes to the main website, whoever owns that website, and you’re stuck with an attorney that probably does know what the hell they’re doing. That is only getting paid three or $4,000 for it.

And so I think it’s very troubling because when you look at the website, on its face, it looks like it’s a massive or large law firm. But these are just feeder websites that will, I think, send these clients, and that’s the wrong direction. So they think they’re getting a real law firm, they’re not. And I think it’s incredibly problematic. And then you see that in the results. And they wonder why they got found guilty. Or they wonder why they lost their board or whatever it happens to be.

Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 3:09

Tim, here’s another thing I noticed, what some of these firms are doing to try to compete with more legitimate military defense attorneys is they’re pulling results as well. They’ll be like, look at our results. For example, on my website, every single one of those cases, my either me personally, or my wife and I did together my wife is my law partner. And I don’t list anyone else’s cases. Those are all me as lead counsel. If it’s a trial, it’s amazing. You’re like, wow, in one month, they dispose of them like five cases because they’re they have 20 accounts. Well, that’s like me listing all of your results. Noel’s results on my website areas if they’re mine, and it’s misleading. And they’re all also a lot of times not even listing the actual result.

There’ll be hyped-up results from five years ago and a case where they were the third chair in the past year. I’ve had two different firms reach out to me, I’m not going to mention their names, but they wanted to make me of counsel to the firm. And I’m like, why would I join your firm with many lawyers who have very little experience. And you want to put my name on the firm. So then you can say that your cases have been on 60 minutes time magazine, your firm has the best someone who’s written books and teaches, and I’m not gonna, I would never associate with people like that. But there are two specific firms, and they wanted just to use my name, to pay me like 30% of cases that they get in so long as they could use our firm’s name and reputation for marketing their lawyers.

Most of their lawyers. If you look at their experience, you go to our websites. It lists legal experience, Criminal Defense experience, you know, things we’ve done places, we taught things we’ve written. And then you look at these firms, sites, a lot of different sites and it just lists a bunch of military things like our comm was deployed tower As a trial counsel in 2004, was airborne qualified, like, that’s great if you’re trying to find someone to jump out of a plane.

But if you’re trying to find someone to represent your son or you and you’re facing, you know, 80 years in prison and sex offender registration, you want to get someone experienced at that type of work. You don’t want a bunch of JV basketball players. You want LeBron on your case. And so I’d be very careful. If you find a firm that is marking themselves as a multi-lawyer, we’re gonna have all these lawyers on your case because you’re not. And only one lawyer speaks in court at any given time, either. And who cares if you have a bunch of no-names that hit represent you that just get out of the jag Corps, you could have 100 people that represent you just got out of the jag Corps. And they don’t amount to anything. Yes, it’s funny.

Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 5:48

It’s funny. You mentioned that, Mike because I also have had law firms approach me and say, can we use your credentials? Can you be of counsel to our practice or ours, our firm? And we’ll give you a piece of the action. First off, I’m not going to do that. I’m not going to associate myself with anyone. The only law firm that Galecki and DuPont associate with is yours. And because it’s legitimate, frequently, you’ll call me, we’ve tried to murder case together. I mean, sir, there are times when you and I will work hand in hand, or frequently, if you have a really large case, and they won’t need extra support, or the same way, that’s all legitimate, but what’s not legitimate is when someone calls me and says,

Hey, Tim, I know that you’ve been on these on media. I know you’ve been on CNN, I know you’ve had your cases on Fox, I know you’ve been on the news, we want to be able to put that on our website, we want to be able to use your case results so that we can drive traffic and send those down, send those cases down to a lower level of attorneys. And we’ll give you a piece of the action. I’m opposed to that. I would never actually do that. I have my law firm, my staff. And I don’t need to associate myself with another firm that wants to pay me for the credentials that I’ve worked hard for that we’ve earned through on the battlefield that we’ve earned in court.

And I think the real issue with this is, if you’re watching this, you may say what, Tim, you’re just complaining because these are competitors. Now I don’t. That’s not the issue. I have an issue: I see service members getting railroaded all the time, we do appeals at our law firm, I have an attorney who just does appeals, and I read records. And I see these no-name attorneys whose clients I thought I hired this, this person I got farmed out to another attorney. And the records are ridiculous. You read these trials, you say, you know what, you’d have been a hell of a lot better off to stick with the military council, you want to save some money. And you might still be in jail, but at least you’d have a little bit of jingle in your pocket. And so I think the is, I think these feeder law firms are doing a great disservice to these potential clients.

Because as I always say, you get one shot of the trial, because doing an appeal is twice as expensive than the actual trial and you’re sitting in prison, and the odds are much, much lower, you get one shot at this, and the outcome is going to change your life. And so you want to put that into the hands of someone who is going to you’re going to go to their website, they’re going to give you to a no-name attorney, they’re going to kick back the cost. And it comes down to integrity. You know, I’ll leave it at this. One of the things I say in closing arguments a lot if you’ve come to see my trials or watch my trials or read some of the closing arguments I’ve done, I say that integrity is either a character trait or a character flaw.

You either have it, or you don’t. And when you’re putting your firm out to be something it’s not, I think that lacks. It can lack a little bit of integrity. And if you don’t have integrity with your clients from the onset, even from the marketing piece, even from the way you portrayed your law firm, then how can you have integrity with them throughout the entirety of the trail where you’ve got to make, sometimes that’s a life and death decision. But the decisions you make, or the interactions you have with your client, can fundamentally change the outcome of their life.

So is this the type of person number one? I don’t want to do business with these people, but this is just for the business, and it’s just money. If you’re a client, it’s your freedom in this your life, and it’s worth a hell of a lot more than money. So I’m just saying if you see this out there, it’s an alarming trend. Use great caution. If you see 1020 people, all these have councils, but they don’t have a real office where all these attorneys work at. If you see that, use great caution and just use some common sense because 20 $500 or $10,000 fee isn’t getting you, six attorneys. It’s just not going to happen. That’s not the real world.

Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 9:13

Well, the other thing is this: who will you be speaking to, and I guarantee you that when you retain my firm. And I know the same goes with you if you retain my wife and I we work every case together, you’re going to be talking to her are one of our paralegals or me, and I’m going to be the one who shows up in court, you’re going to get this face in court, and that also makes a difference. Because who you hire to speak on your behalf is the difference whether you get convicted or acquitted, or whether you get a month in jail if you’re convicted or six years in jail.

And so you need to know who you’re hiring, what they look like, what they speak like, and you don’t want to go try to do the cheapo version and hire someone that has this alleged big law firm when you don’t even You’re gonna get I had a case recently where my co-counsel quit, it was in the military. This person got off the case. And we were representing the client on in the middle, resigned their commission, and they took a job, and they’re getting paid $60,000. For one of these military referral firms that I’m talking about. The lawyer had never tried a case.

But that law was going to be the local council for that law firm in that area. I’m not going to say the area, this person is very nice, but I would never have that person defending my son or any other service member because they just didn’t have the experience. And so what they’re doing is these firms will hire local people, maybe someone that’s getting out of the jag Corps, that’s done a tour to maybe never tried a case, but they’re local.

And so the market that also, like this guy’s local saved money on travel. Hell, if I had to represent someone to defend my son, and it cost 5000. To get the best lawyer, there are 10,000 to get the best lawyer there, Justin airfare. In a gerund, it gave him the best chance of getting the best outcome. Hell, I’d take out whatever credit cards I need to take out, take out a loan if I have to, because I wouldn’t just go with some half-assed lawyer just because they have a shingle in a shopping mall outside of Fort Bliss, for example. So that’s my two cents on the matter.

Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 11:20

Yeah, and I couldn’t agree more. So what we’re saying to clients is, if you’re watching this, or if you’re a son or daughter that needs representation, just do your due diligence. Every attorney is different. It’s a personality that might give a different personality than I get a different trial strategy. We’re both very good lawyers are both very accomplished lawyers. And let’s say attorneys were looking at hiring, you’re looking at me. I always tell clients to talk to both of us and talk to the law firm, see what’s going to be the best fit for you because it’s a relationship. But going back to your point, I’m the managing partner of my law firm. I’m the equivalent of the Commanding General here. So no case, I’m on every case. And even if it’s one of my associates, I have two associates, one just does appellate work, and one does court-martials. But I’m on all of these cases. We work on them together.
There are two offices down from me. So you’re going to be able to talk to me, you’re going to be able to come into my office at a point in time. So assuming you’re in Honolulu, sit down and sit down and talk with me. That’s the most important thing, and if you get if you’re not comfortable or get a bad vibe, think someone’s trying to scam you, or think someone’s trying to pull the wool over your eyes, just walk away because this isn’t buying a used car. This is your freaking future. This is your life. So you got to make a good choice and a good decision because frequently, a bad choice is one you’re going to live to regret.

Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 12:29

Alright, very well said, and until next time, this is Michael Waddington.

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