Okay, I just wanted to make sure I got everybody's attention.
As of September 01, the Lammers Law Office is closing its doors and I am moving to Wise County, Virginia to take the job of Deputy Commonwealth Attorney.
How did that happen? I'm glad you asked.
To begin with, I wanted to move closer to where I grew up (Lexington, Kentucky), where I went to college (Danville, Kentucky), and where my parents live (Cincinnati, Ohio). On and off over the last few years I have considered taking the Kentucky Bar exam (no reciprocal waiver) and moving back that way, perhaps (because I like the mountains) to Ashland. A couple things made me hesitant to do this. First, I did not want to take another bar exam. Second, I wasn't very thrilled by the idea of having to learn an entirely different set of laws and procedures.
Additionally, I had noticed a disturbing trend in the funding of my practice. Most of you know I've been doing indigent defense. This has never been wildly profitable. However, when I first started I was making enough money - especially before I actually got office space. This was because I was getting a lot of misdemeanors and minor felonies. Quick turn around and not too much work meant the practice stayed afloat. Then a terrible thing seems to have happened: the judges started to think I was competent enough to be given serious cases. These cases ate a lot of time and effort and were more emotionally draining. Slowly the business became less able to sustain itself; a few times in the last three years I came very close to closing down the office and practicing from my apartment and the courthouses again. As a business matter, I should have found a way to walk away from the more serious cases, and moved to more profitable areas such as GAL work (where court appointed attorneys can actually make very good money). However, like a moth to a flame, I found myself drawn to the more interesting legal questions and arguments in the serious criminal cases and it's not like you can tell a judge "No sir, I won't take this indigent case because I know it won't be profitable."
Then came the perfect storm. Earlier this year I had 5 or 6 clients decide to appeal their cases. Then I had a couple of guys decide to take jury trials. All of these are money losers in both terms of money paid for work done and opportunity loss costs (if you're not in court to be appointed to cases because you're at the office researching and writing you lose the income from those cases). Three of the petitions for appeal were accepted (and another should have been). This meant time dedicated to getting the briefs written, appendixes prepared, and prepping to actually go argue. The legal issues were extremely interesting and I don't regret the time spent in the least. However, untold, unpaid hours were lost to the endeavor. And the jury trials were even worse. Because the clients were locked up travel to see them at various prisons took a lot of time. One case fizzled on the trial date after about 20 hours+ of work (pled to a misdemeanor), and I got my $428 for that case. The other was over 40 hours by the time the jury trial ended and I'm still waiting to do the sentencing hearing; I'll get $445 when all is said and done. Needless to say, the money situation at my office has gotten tight.
The seed which was planted about me asking Chad Dotson (BTW, Chad was the original Sheriff a relation?) for a job came from an unusual source. You'll remember that a while back a blogger using the pen name "Libertas" asked some questions about Chad and what was going on in Wise. I posted a reply at CrimLaw and Libertas sent me an email asking me if the could quote my reply and what my ties with Chad were. I told him there were no ties - however, Libertas got me thinking . . .
Then, one day I was glancing thru the Virginia Lawyer's Weekly and saw an ad that Chad was hiring. I put it up on the blog and then put it up again later. Chad even posted a comment joking with me about giving him a call if I ever decided to cross over. A joke he may yet come to regret. ;-)
After having the ad up the second time I started thinking about it and did a little bit of research. I'd been to Wise a couple times in my life and knew it is a beautiful area. I was also able to get a pretty good idea what the courthouse looks like inside and out (although that seems to vary from picture to picture - this is my favorite). I talked to some people whom I know have lived there and a junior prosecutor whom I trust about what life's like on the other side. I also figured out that Wise borders Kentucky. As a crow flies, it's probably about as close to Lexington as the place in Kentucky I was considering and it's about 4 hours from Cincinnati - AND I wouldn't have to take another bar or learn an entirely new system. If only it paid $250,000 a year it'd be absolutely perfect; as it is it's still pretty dawg-on good.
And then I thought back to some advice which surfaced from Professor Groot when he passed last year (though not given to me it seemed apropos):
Groot: "You know, Mr. Sullivan, if you enjoy Criminal Law, you should think about a job as a prosecutor."BTW, for those of you who don't know - that's a Grootism and if you didn't got to W&L you may not get the humor/truth. That's okay, you had to know Groot (he wasn't exactly a prosecutor's best friend: "At the time of Groot's death, none of his clients had been sent to death row").
Sullivan: "Mr. Groot, there is no way I would work for the government."
Groot: "Mr. Sullivan, having chosen the profession of intellectual prostitution, you should worry less about who is paying you and more about making sure you get paid."
With all this in mind, I decided it was "time to put out the fire and call in the dogs." I wrote Chad an email asking if he would entertain the notion of hiring me and he was kind enough to do so. The next thing I knew I was trying to get out of rental agreements and hand off cases and dates to other attorneys. Now it's just a matter of getting thru that last month of private practice and getting moved out to Wise.
How will this effect the blawg?
I'm not sure at this point. The news links will most likely continue with little change outside of whatever change comes from experiential bias when I have experienced the other side. Stories about what has actually happened as part of court are likely to be far less common; when you are always in one courthouse and people are working to appeal your result the problems which could occur are fairly obvious. I'm not sure exactly where I'll draw the line, but it will have to be stricter than I currently have it. BTW: Chad has not said a word to me about this and NOTHING ON THIS BLOG IS REFLECTIVE OF ANYTHING IN THE WISE COUNTY COMMONWEALTH'S OFFICE.
And that's the way it is. I look forward to your comments.