Consultation

Consultation

Mr. Sheldon charges $400 for a 30-minute consultation. Mr. Sheldon usually consults about criminal trials, appeals and post-conviction (habeas corpus, pardons, writs of innocence etc.). Mr. Sheldon also consults regarding personal injury, medical malpractice and civil rights violations. Mr. Sheldon will be thoroughly prepared for the consultation through a short interview with the client or family by staff and by our research into the history of the case. We would not charge and schedule a consultation for a type of case that Mr. Sheldon does not work on. 

If the client is incarcerated, then in most instances our office arranges a video conference through the jail or prison directly with the client. In some instances the client will call us. We are aware of all the struggles of phone access in prison, so in rare cases we will work with the client’s counselor to arrange a call.  We have been speaking to incarcerated individuals for over 25 years, our calls are not recorded and we have never been prevented from successfully consulting with a potential client in state or federal facilities regardless of the prison or our client’s status. You can be assured that we schedule consultations in a timely and orderly manner considering when you paid, the prison’s availability, scheduling our other clients and the necessity of the case.  Sometimes it will take a few weeks to speak to a client. 

Mr. Sheldon has over 25 years experience in litigating and advising clients in post-conviction relief; he has also written a book on post-conviction relief in Virginia.  We will provide very valuable information to our clients in these 30-minute consultations, even if that information might be that the client’s theory in challenging his case is wrong or there is a very low chance for any kind of relief, which we realize is very disappointing.

FAQ: Frequently Asked Questions

Can you tell me whether Mr. Sheldon will take my case before I pay for the consultation?

No.  Whether Mr. Sheldon accepts the client’s case for further review will be based on a give and take between Mr. Sheldon and the client, both Mr. Sheldon and the client must agree to move forward after the initial consultation. Whether Mr. Sheldon agrees to review the case further after a consultation depends on several factors, including the client’s chances for some form of relief, the amount of time available to file in the case, the potential amount of work and cost involved, and whether the client’s expectations of the results of the case are in line with Mr. Sheldon’s expectations.

Why won’t Mr. Sheldon speak to us, we paid for the consultation!?

Mr. Sheldon receives over 400 requests for consultations each year. He then represents over 50 clients per year in litigation. To be clear, we do not have time for Mr. Sheldon to repeat himself to family – this is for the client to do. Once he consults with the client we expect the client to share with his family what the client chooses to share.  In addition to the time commitment, because of the legal issue of attorney-client privilege as well as a lawyer’s ethical duty of confidentiality it is very difficult for a lawyer to share information with the family of a client.  In rare instances where the client consents AND the client will have difficulty in sharing Mr. Sheldon’s conclusions with his family, we can arrange a very short summary conversation.

Why won’t Mr. Sheldon read documents we send to him for the consultation? 

Because of the number of clients seeking advice, the cost of Mr. Sheldon’s time, and our experience in reviewing what our client’s and their families send to us prior to a consultation we rarely read documents. Often they end up being not relevant and it would have been very hard for the family or client prior to the consultation to understand why. We do research and read what is necessary prior to the consultation including specific information regarding the client’s personal information, prison, release date, date of arrest, date of charge, date of conviction, county of conviction, the charges and length of sentence. Often at the time of the consultation Mr. Sheldon will know more than the client about various procedural aspects of the case.

What are the next steps after a consultation and how much will it cost? 

There are generally three paid steps to each case: small, medium and large.  The first step is small: a $400 paid consultation – a 30 minute discussion with the client.  We never skip this step, we must start with a consultation.  The second step, if warranted and agreed to by the firm and the client, is a medium step defined in a written fee agreement, a detailed review of the case which almost always consists of reading of the record and transcripts.  This step will cost in proportion to the length of the prior proceedings: if the plea or trial was short, it might cost $3k-$5k.  If the trial was long, it will cost approximately $3,000 per day of trial.  Only after a review of the record, including reading the trial transcripts, will Mr. Sheldon consider taking on a client for litigation the third, large, step. The cost of the third step, litigation, is in proportion to the length and complexity of the client’s case and legal issues.  This step could cost anywhere from $15,000-$50,000 but could be more or less in exceptional cases (length or complexity). The cost and details of the litigation will be spelled out in detail in a written fee agreement. Communication and expectations will always be clear.

Will Mr. Sheldon tell us the truth, or will he give us false hope so that we pay him a large fee, like others have done? 

Mr. Sheldon has a particularly strong reputation among inmates for being honest about chances for relief. There is nothing he would like more than to be well paid and litigate successfully for his client and your loved one. But in the vast majority of cases where the client’s appeals and other deadlines have passed, it is likely that the client has no realistic remedy available. Where there is an available remedy we will fight together as hard as we can to shorten our client’s sentence or win his release. When there is no likelihood of a remedy we will also be disappointed but instead of offering false hope in exchange for a fee, we will state clearly, and explain in detail, with compassion, that the client is wasting their money by paying a lawyer.

But a jailhouse lawyer has told us that we have a great case!? 

Jailhouse lawyers are wonderful resources and more than once a jailhouse lawyer has raised an issue in a case that was helpful to Mr. Sheldon. But jailhouse lawyers in our experience commonly, not always, make several mistakes.  First, they focus far too much on the law and legal remedies rather than the facts of a particular case. Second, they misapply the law to a situation or set of facts for which that law is not relevant. Third, they do not understand the limitations of certain legal principles or have motivations within the prison environment (money, prestige or other) which leads them to offering more hope than a case deserves.

Will Mr. Sheldon consider taking our case pro bono (for free)? 

No. Mr. Sheldon has for several years received recognition for his commitment to pro bono work on behalf of indigent defendants.  It is very unlikely he would be able to add your case to his long list of free cases.

What if Mr. Sheldon tells us there is nothing to be done in the case, do we get a refund of the consultation fee? 

No. The consultation fee is for Mr. Sheldon’s preparation and time spent during the consultation. If a client is disappointed because Mr. Sheldon tells them the case has a low chance of relief, still many people find that information highly valuable: both to understand from Mr. Sheldon why their case is difficult to challenge, and to do away with the uncertainty of whether they should hire a lawyer.

What if Mr. Sheldon does take our case, does the consultation fee go toward the fee for retaining Mr. Sheldon? 

Yes.  After a consultation, in setting the next fee to review your case, the review fee is set according to the amount of work to be done.  That review fee will take into consideration that a small amount of work has already been paid for and finished.

Payment by personal check, cashier’s check and money order are also accepted. We prefer payments to be sent to our office using UPS or FedEx rather than the United States Post Office.

Our mailing address is:

Sheldon & Flood, PLC 
10621 Jones Street, Suite 301-A 
Fairfax, VA 22030

Make payable to “Sheldon and Flood, PLC”