Selecting the Best Military Defense Attorneys
Military Law News Network – Legal Fees: Tips for Hiring the Best Court Martial Lawyer. In this episode, court-martial defense attorneys Michael Waddington, Tim Bilecki, and Noel Tipon discuss legal fees and inexperienced lawyers that charge ultra-low fees and provide cut-rate services to American servicemembers.
Below is a transcript for the YouTube video: Legal Fees – Tips for Hiring the Best Court Martial Lawyer
Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 0:04
It’s Michael Waddington here with the military law news network. And today, I have the pleasure of being joined by Noel Tipon and Tim Bilecki on the same call. And in today’s call, we want to talk about what we call bottom feeders, their low-budget lawyers that are out there, and they’re a dime a dozen. And you get what you pay for.
The problem is that we’re going to hear in this discussion that many service members are being harmed by getting lawyers that market themselves as very experienced and very savvy. And it turns out. They’re getting a lawyer that doesn’t have experience. It’s cut-rate. The writing is on the wall. And one of the biggest indicators is aside from the person’s experience and track record. It’s what they charge you 10 min. Noel, welcome.
Noel Tipon, Attorney at Law 0:47
Thank you. And thanks for having us. We’re here in Honolulu, Hawaii. And it’s, it’s great to be with you, Mike. And this is a great topic that I know is something near and dear to my heart, near and dear to Tim’s heart in your heart because, as former service members, we joined because we wanted to help service members. And we got out because we knew that being part of the system was not serving our men and women in uniform.
So getting out and representing people outside of the system was a significant step up in our game. And as you call them, like these bottom feeders who are out there that claim that they’re part of some large law firm but are just solos who have this loose connection with each other are harming the criminal justice system—absolutely harming our military service members. The latter is in uniform because they’re giving them these cut-rate services for cut-rate prices.
And it is you get what you pay for. And if the going rate for a court-martial is 10s of 1000s of dollars, you got to ask yourself, Well, what is this lawyer going to give me if he is giving me less than the market value for his services? How does the value his own time, his skill, and his labor? If he’s going to give me some cut-rate price, and I know that that’s been significantly hindered service members’ rights, and I know Tim’s This is something that he calls near and dear to my kids, my frustration with this, right?
Hiring the Best Court Martial Lawyer
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 2:19
Because from the outside perspective, your say, hey, these military defense lawyers, these service members are getting a great deal. They’re going to be able to get quality sibling representation for an affordable rate. That’s the promise that’s given to them. But it’s all garbage. Because at the end of the day, there is value to your time. There’s only so much time in a day. And lawyers across the globe, whether we charge a flat fee or whether we do it hourly, we kind of compute our time to hours how many we’re going to put in. So let’s say there’s a case, and someone calls me up and says, Hey, I just got accused of sexual assault.
I’m getting railroaded by CID. I need your team to go and do an independent investigation. I need you to interview witnesses. I need you to find the facts that CID didn’t find.
Hey, I’ve got exculpatory evidence on my phone. I need you to do all this investigation. Wargame a case scenario Wargaming a game plan, bring it to a prosecutor and keep me from getting charged because I don’t want to get charged. And I say okay, great. We can do that. We have the resources to do all of that. And let’s say the fee is $15,000 to do or $10,000 to do it. Now, why would that be the feed? Because I’ve got to have an independent investigator, I need to do witness interviews. I need to get affidavits. I need to do travel. There’s actual work that I need to do to put into the case.
So I can get a service member the right result. Not only that but you know, why am I sitting here? We’ve got nearly almost four years experience. I wasn’t doing it longer than I have. He’s over 20 now. S so if the fee is 10 to $15,000, for doing it on, on that end. We don’t even make a lot of money as lawyers doing that. Mike, that’s not a highly profitable case. But what it does, it allows someone perhaps to not get falsely accused of someone, I mean, to not be charged after being falsely accused, give them great representation, and then they can move on with their life.
Now they’re gonna make another phone call and talk to one of these. They’re like puppy mills, these little lawyer Mills, people that just got out of the service that was nine people on their website, and they said, I’ll do it for two grand. Well, the initial thought from the service members was, oh, wow, this is great. I can save eight grand or save ten grand or save $15,000 and get civilian counsel. But for two grand or 2500, what are you going to get? You’re going to get about four hours of their time.
If you’re lucky, you’re not going to get them. You’re not going to get an investigation. You’re not gonna be able to do phone forensics. You’re not going to get a lot of phone calls. You’re not going to get much of anything at all because that individual probably needs 20 3040 cases just to run their business. So you’re gonna be one of 30 or one of 40 or one of 50 where if you hire an attorney that costs a little bit more money and a lot more money, you’re going to get quality representation. And I’ll leave it with this Mike. This is not we’re not trying to go out and buy a car here, right? If you buy a car and buy a lemon, you go trade it in or get it fixed. This is something. No one calls my office just to chat.
Hiring the Best Court Martial Lawyer
I mean, maybe someone calls for some mentorship advice, but most people who call my office and want to talk to me or want to talk to know well aren’t serious shit there. I mean, they’ve got serious allegations against them, whether that’s false allegations of sexual assault, whether it’s true allegations of sexual assault, whether it’s drug trafficking, drug distribution, attempted murder, if they’re calling my law firm or calling your law firm, they’ve got a potentially life-changing event.
But what’s going to happen is they’re going to have this expectation of greatness for their lawyer, pay $2,000 or $2,500 bucks, and get no services whatsoever, and be a worse position than it would have been if they were just stuck with TDs. And that’s my real problem here, Mike, is we’ve got these alleged expert military defense attorneys out there who are undercutting fees because they want to get a massive volume of clients. It’s a volume business.
That’s all it is for these individuals. And these service members get subpar representation when they deserve the highest level of representation possible because if it wasn’t significant enough, they wouldn’t be calling me or when you call them. No, well, we wouldn’t be calling you.
Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 5:55
Yeah, exactly. Here’s the thing that you can’t run. This is not about pleading out D wise, okay. You cannot run a volume business. Suppose you’re in a highly specialized field, like criminal offense, defending sex assault cases. In that case, you require hands-on skill and experience, just like if you’re gonna hire a brain surgeon, do you want the brain surgeon that runs in a volume business, and you go to 10 brain surgeons, and they tell you, oh, it’s gonna be $50,000 to try to save your brain from cancer that’s eating it.
You might not make it, you might die, but you have your best chance with this guy or this lady. And then you go to Jimmy down doctor Jimbo down the street. And he’s like, I can do it for 3000. And you find you see, like, you find out that he’s running a volume business, you’re gonna die. You’re not gonna get the services you want. I know you love your car analogies. I look into like sports. And I like MMA fighting. If you want someone to fight for your life because that’s what it is. It’s one person against another in court.
When I stand up and do the closing, one lawyer gets to do it. You don’t. It’s not 50 lawyers with combined skill. It’s one lawyer that stands up there and represents you and makes an argument for your life. You want the best fighter that you can get, the one who has the longest track record. You’re gonna want to make sure that that person has experienced the fight and not some two-bit person who’s who is fighting amateur fights on weekend nights while he’s working at Jimmy John’s. You’re
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 7:24
I’m going to lose, you know, and my frustration isn’t that clients to retain us. Depending on the month, we average about 70 to 90, increase a month for people who want to retain our offer. No, I retained a well want to retain myself for our law firm. We have, we’re booked out for six months in advance. We’ve been booked out six months in advance for longer for the last seven or eight years now. So the issue isn’t that we don’t have the clients these.
I talked to these individuals or quoted them if I want to take on their case. If they have that victim mentality, don’t have the victim mentality. And it’s a good fit for my law firm a good fit for our law firm, we’ll take them on, and I’ll quote them the fee, and they’ll say, Oh my god, I didn’t realize it was this much, Joe Blow down the street in the middle of in the heartland of the US, that’s gonna charge me 2500. And I quoted them 20,000. I said, well, then go hire him.
But just save enough money to do the appeal, save the money you’re saving, put in a savings account, go to wealth front, go to a brokerage account betterment, put it in there, and get a nice stable fund that’s going to grow over two, three over two years. So that money is there for you when you hire our law firm to do the appeal. And oh, by the way, make sure someone’s ability to access that funds. And that’s the frustration, right? Because they’re gonna be in prison. I mean, there’s a high chance that they would be in prison.
Hiring the Best Court Martial Lawyer
Because it’s not an issue for our law firm. We built an amazing law firm here. But I see clients getting screwed out there by going to bid attorneys who charge nothing trying to knock out the rent every month. A lot of times for what these attorneys cost. They’re better off sticking with the ADC. There’s some really good ADC’s out there. No, well, I worked with a great ADC out in Ellsworth Air Force Base a couple of weeks ago. A client would be much better served just going with that level of an ADC than hiring some guy that’s right out of the Army or right out of the Navy or the Marine Corps with five cases under his belt and paying for it to save your money, you’re going to need to get out of prison.
Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 9:15
I agree that there you’re probably better off going with an ADC or a TDS lawyer, a good one than some of the lawyers that I know out there. Because the reputation precedes many of these lawyers, okay, they can say whatever they want on their website. But, still, whenever you see their performance, unfortunately, many of them will be I’ve gone against some of these people as prosecutors, and they’re terrible.
I’ve had to work side by side with some of them, some of them as criminal defense lawyers, and I wouldn’t hire them to represent my worst enemy because they would do all lower in injustice. And now that person is out there saying that they’re an award-winning the top military defense lawyer. It’s outrageous because when you get into court, and you see them, and you and you hear the reputation amongst other TDs lawyers Amongst other ADCs, if you knew the reputation, you would never go near them.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 10:04
It might. This is personality-driven, right? As you said, when you stand up to a cross-examination, there’s no one to tag in for you are up there cross-examining that agent forgiven the closing argument on your own. And a lot of people came in string two sentences together. We do videos like these that aren’t scripted. We just come out and talk because we can articulate what we’re going to say, talk about our points, make arguments, and just have a conversation.
This is my personality, 24 hours a day. Whether you like it or not, I tell clients, I talk fast, I think fast, I drive fast. That’s my personality, Noel’s personality, whether it’s on these videos, our off-the-record series or the radio show, or go watching a one-state court or a military court. That’s his personality all fired up. And he’s aggressive and just ready to go. But a lot of people just have these websites out there, and they’ll list their achievements.
Their biggest achievement was the aim they got while at the Legal Services Office. And there’s no, and you watch them. And sometimes, they’ll put a video out. And the videos are stupid. They go hire a company to show them on a mountaintop, and they do this panning circle video with stones showing them standing on a mountaintop. I’m like, What the hell was that? Do a video showing your actual personality. You’re actually who you are without the stupid mountain top video that they paid for. Because us because Damn it, right, because this is laughing about it. Because it’s true. It’s so true. It’s true,
Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 11:28
you can count on your hand. The lawyers that put a video out there in the video are decent. It shows them speaking like I don’t know, a single most lawyers I know that are claiming to be like the great military lawyers, they don’t have a video out there. And if there is a video, they’re in a Starbucks, and they’re sitting there in shorts, and there’s a way that you can hear the barista grinding beans in the background, you can’t hear what they’re saying. And that’s what you’re gonna get in court, brother. That is who’s going to be trying to save your kid’s life. So whether it’s 20, you pay them 2500 or 25 million.
Do your research, you can go back and watch some of the videos we did years ago, the three of us are videos that I did, you know, 12 years ago, and I look younger, and I might have a suit that’s not as nice, but it’s I’m the same person. And that’s how I speak, but so people know that, that when they can see you speak, they can say oh, I like how this person talks because I’m a paid spokesperson. And but so they try to replicate a lot of our opponents have tried to go the video route. I encourage you to watch their videos. I wouldn’t hire a lawyer sight unseen unless I saw their videos.
If you have to hire a lawyer, you should watch what they speak like on a video and not a commercial. Where because most of these folks, there’s a lawyer came out recently, you can see them reading on the teleprompter. I’m like this guy’s supposedly a paid lawyer that one’s 30 to $40,000 per year to speak on their behalf. And he can introduce himself and say what he does for a living without reading it. It’s insane.
Hiring the Best Military Defense Lawyers
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 13:04
In terms of due diligence, one of the best ways to do this is to go to YouTube, find their website, go into YouTube, go to their playlist and watch their videos. And don’t just watch the one commercially made video where they hire a company for $20,000 to give you the mountaintop scene where you’re standing on a mountaintop, there’s the panic, you know, talking about Oh, watch, I guarantee you’re watching my video, now you’re googling some of the competition or some other lawyers, you will find someone that probably spent 15 $20,000 in a video where they’re standing on top of a mountain top, and there’s a panning circle around them. And like the power shot, what the hell does that accomplish? Right?
I mean, seriously, go watch a video where they’re actually engaging and talking and being themselves again. This is me. I talk fast. I think fast. This is just me. And if you don’t like that person out, if you don’t like what you’re seeing on this video that we’re making, don’t hire me, don’t pay me $200,000 because it’s never gonna work. Because this is not some company saying, hey, Tim, you need to change your image you need to do this and uh, well, you need to add this will make a great video, we just go and put these out because this is who we are.
Noel Tipon, Attorney at Law 14:02
I mean, I agree with you. What you said earlier was that you have to go out there and do your research on somebody. Not just they’re not there, just their website, because that’s the propaganda that they’re putting out there. And they probably had somebody help them write it.
But go out there, check, check Amazon, check what they’ve written because what they write sure goes through some editing. And sure, it goes through some content management. But when someone is an author of something, and someone has been published by someone else, some other publishing company says, hey, you’re good enough that we’re going to put it out there and put our name on that book. Or we’re going to publish and hard bind, what you put on paper that says volumes about an individual and then read what they put down there because it speaks volumes about somebody if the best you’re going to get is a cut and paste job on a website or someone’s fitness report that they got from some, you know, Colonel, that was their best friend.
They went surfing every weekend. Then you’re doing yourself a disservice. Because you know, a lot of people, they want to do, you know, hire somebody, the first person that calls them back, the first person that they talk to, that’s not doing your research, because this is a decision that will affect you for the rest of your life. And if you don’t go out there and do your diligence to see what other people are saying about the lawyer you’re picking, you’re doing yourself a disservice. And you are then just getting what you paid for. And like you said, just stick with the ADC or the TDs letter.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 15:41
Yeah. And I like what you said, as I challenge. These attorneys that are out there that been out for a year have 15 people on their website, put some video out, I’d like to see it, put some video out and not hire it out where you’ve got to have this huge production team, just check out like put some videos out. And it’s typically the quality of its just garbage. I don’t care about the film quality of the lighting or production quality. I’m talking about just the quality of the arguments, the quality of the personality because that’s what you’re going to get when they show up.
Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 16:13
That’s the product. Like that’s the product that you’re getting the lawyer you’re getting that spokesperson, that’s not only what they say, but how they think how they act in what they look like. And so, and I’ve gotten flack for this because this is not politically correct. And it’s come out in some of the classes that I taught. But I think lawyers have to look professional and speak well and be were trained spokespeople. And we’re doing this life in court, just like we are now we’re recording, but it’s live. And we’re doing you’re gonna be making arguments live in front of a studio audience always say like you’re in front of 12 jurors, that are judging everything you say, with an audience of people, that is the sum for you.
So I’m against you, against live opponents that went to excellent law schools half the time standing up, interrupting your objection, and stopping you and fighting with you every step of the way with a judge that might hate you and your client. That’s the environment we’re operating in. Suppose you can’t have a conversation on video with a couple of colleagues or even stringing together a couple of sentences. How the heck are you going to survive against an opponent, especially if your client is facing overwhelming odds in front of a live audience where they want you to lose, and you got to think on your feet, you got to be able to speak and articulate on behalf of a human being.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 17:36
Yeah, and I agree. And that’s what separates the 20 $500 attorney from the one that will charge five 710 times that. But the price is only an issue when value is a mystery. And value certainly isn’t a mystery. We just do a little bit of research and talk to individuals again. I love the car analogies. I’m a car guy, but we’re not buying a car here. You’re talking about your freedom in your life, fundamentally different things.
Hiring the Top Military Defense Lawyers
Noel Tipon, Attorney at Law 17:59
You know, I like what you said, Mike. I like what you said, Tim, about people going out there and putting themselves out in front of a studio audience and marketing yourself to the people who will hire you and make decisions. Moms, dads, brothers, sisters, and our clients who are out there. And you challenge some of these new lawyers who graduated probably from some Ivy League school because that’s what it takes to get into the jag Corps. Nowadays, it takes a Harvard grad, not like when you and I were first getting into the jag Corps, when we’ll be any old law school would do. But nowadays, when they’re going to Harvard, Yale, Stanford and now getting out. And now they’re putting themselves out there.
You got some young kids out there who can’t put together two sentences. I like that. I like that what you suggest, but I also suggest this for those old dinosaurs who are out there, and I’ve been doing this for over 20 years now, those old dinosaurs who are out there and say that I don’t, I don’t do videos, I don’t mark it that way. I do word of mouth. I only survive by referrals. And this newfangled marketing and video that’s out there, those dinosaurs who are out there and saying that this is not ready to go. Yet. You gotta be scared of those guys, too, when you’re making a decision, because why if numbers of years of practice are the only measurement that says that you’re a good lawyer, then what does that say about their ability in court?
Because I always like to say that there’s no substitute for experience, but there’s no substitute for good. There’s no substitute for skill. And if you’re just saying I’ve been doing this for 30 years now, but you’re not willing to put yourself out there and do marketing the way that it’s done now, and be part of this time and this generation and understand what these kids are going through. And if you don’t know what #Metoo is, you’re not going to be successfully litigating these cases to a jury of people who are probably 10 1520 years younger than you, It’s got to be something that’s done, and you have to judge your lawyer, but what, how they look and what they say, in front of you in a spontaneous and unrehearsed fashion.
Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 20:11
I think it’s more important even with the older lawyers because I know of lawyers who have been doing this for 50 years. But they don’t look any better than some of the other ones we’re talking about. They don’t speak any better. They never did speak well. So I know people who just did 25 years in the service branch, got out there getting retirement. And so they’re saying, Well, I’m a retired colonel, I was a judge. And they can’t make an argument either. And they look like a bumbling fool. I know several people like that. So while I’m a retired colonel, have a look at their credentials.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 20:44
There’s something sometimes those are the worst when you’ve been in the human, a colonel or your Navy captain, you’ve known for 25-30 years you were a judge. Now you get out, and you want to litigate, but you haven’t been in a courtroom on the other side of the bar down in the trenches for 15 years. All you’ve been doing is calling balls and strikes.
Sometimes those are the worst litigators I’ve ever seen. If you are, I mean, know what you do the sports analogies, I make the car analogies. I don’t know; I can’t come up with the knowledge off the top of my head. If you’re an umpire, I don’t want to put the umpire at-bat. You know, maybe, throw the analogy out there. With one
Noel Tipon, Attorney at Law 21:15
That’s the absolute analogy that I was talking about. Because if you’re a judge, you’re calling balls and strikes. You’re back there being neutral and detached. You’re supposed to be you’re not always. I know judges who side with the prosecutors. But if you’re a judge, and you’ve been a judge for 1015 years, and you’ve been trying to be neutral, detached, and not take a side and only call balls and strikes. You are not ready for primetime.
You are not ready to be put up at the plate. Do you believe that a guy who’s been umpiring for 20 years, you want to say well, you got a lot of experience umpiring? I’m gonna make you famous, Clayton Kershaw. Once you go ahead and see how that goes, there’s no way you don’t want that guy out there.
Michael Waddington, Attorney at Law 21:56
You know, and that’s, I love that analogy that goes with any sport. If you think about it, it’s like putting the boxing reps in the ring with Mike Tyson.
Noel Tipon, Attorney at Law 22:04
Oh, yeah, even if your box back in the day, I bought Golden Gloves when I was 16. And you watched 1000s of matches, go in there and fight them.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 22:13
Not so much. Not so much.
Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 22:16
I would always be leery when you look at someone’s resume when what they list, it’s not recent. It’s not relevant. It’s just a bunch of military stuff. And or prosecutorial staff. Like one of these, one of these referral Mills we’re talking about just refers everything out in one guy takes a cut of the money, and he sends a bunch of noobs out there to face the opponent. Look at the resumes on their websites. And there are several of these people. It’s all military stuff. We are calm. I served as a prosecutor in Korea for a year. I jumped out of planes like that’s a great man. Like, we need those people. We love them. We defend them. But that has nothing to do with being able to take down a highly paid government expert or a CIA agent who has been working the job for 25 years who wants your guy to go and gel.
Tim Bilecki, Military Defense Attorney 23:17
You jumping out of planes is irrelevant to being able to destroy and expose a forensic nurse examiner with a Ph.D., and a lot of men very minimal defense time. You know, and so keep in prosecuting your entire career. As short as that is, you can’t just flip the switch and go-to defense. I mean, the reality is, if you’ve been driving a Ford F 150s your entire life, you’re not just going to go in and buy a Silverado one day going, maybe you will, but you’re probably going to be buying Ford F 150s. Right?
If you’re into that because that’s what you do. So if you’ve been prosecuting people your entire career and my entire career, it’s usually three years. Two of those you were a trial counsel, one of those you did legal assistance of those two years, you probably did six guilty pleas in one contest to trial, maybe two, that’s probably a three-year career. We don’t just switch up, switch over and say, Well, I was a former prosecutor. So I’m going to be able to do defense work. One of the things I pride myself on is I’ve never been a prosecutor. I’ve never been prosecuted in my life.
I’ve never been on the other side. And I pride myself on the fact that I know I’ve never been responsible for putting someone in jail. I’ve always been on the other side. I’ve dedicated my entire career. From the time I worked with Joe Hirshhorn back in Miami, back where you’re now, Mike, from when I was young, like 22 years old. I’ve dedicated my entire career to criminal defense.
It’s not something I just switched over. Because someone offered me a paycheck to go do some work in defense work. These are the people wrapping this in a circle wrapping this up. These are the people that are charging these low fees. These are the people you’re going to get when you want to get a discount lawyer. These are the people that are going to be representing you or your loved one. And if that’s what you want to go with, that’s fine.
It doesn’t. It’s no issue for us. But just be very suspicious about what you’re getting for the money. Because frequently, you’re given this extraordinary promise of greatness. You pay a small amount of money, or relatively for this, it’s all expensive fees. It doesn’t, you know, it’s not beyond me. That is all of its expensive legal fees, but you pay a relatively low sum for legal fees, and then you get subpar legal fees, and then you get subpar legal representation. That’s what happens. That’s the problem. And that’s why these lawyer Mills popping up are a real problem to military service members who need representation.
Michael Waddington, Court-martial lawyer 25:31
Excellent point, Tim. And I thank you, guys. This is fun. We’d never done the three of us together on one screen, but we’re using some new technology, and it’s pretty cool to get all three of us on at the same time. Thanks, guys. Thanks for having us, Mike. Thanks, Mike. Appreciate
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