How would a person find out this type of information on who payed a lawyer?

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  1. #1

    How would a person find out this type of information on who payed a lawyer?

    For my story, basically the main character, a cop, wants to use unorthodox methods if he has to find out the truth. He wants to find out the who leader of a group of villains are. He only know two suspects, one was arrested, but not enough evidence to prosecute, so he is let go.

    However, the leader tells him not to keep in contact with the rest of the group cause in case the police are keeping tabs on him or surveying him. So he doesn't contact the villains' accept only by burner phone for updates.

    So the main character wants to find out who the leader is, but knows that the leader will not make direct contact that can tracked, with the two suspects.

    So the main character decides to find out who paid for the suspects lawyer when he was arrested. But how would he do this exactly? I thought he could hack into the lawyer's computer but the leader would go through steps to hide himself I am guessing.

    So would the MC have to look at all the payment's to the lawyer, and crosscheck them with banks by hacking into banks, to see who withdrew the exact amount of money that the lawyer was paid for, for a particular case... cause whoever withdrew that amount of money from their account, would likely be a higher up in the gang of villains, if the amount, matches the payment to the lawyer?

    Or how would the MC something like this out, or what crack would be left if the leader was trying to hide himself from the payments?

  2. #2
    The chances are the leader has the lawyer on a monthly retainer, and a lot of his clients will also have him on a retainer.

  3. #3
    Oh okay thanks, but what does that mean though as to how the MC would find out?

  4. #4
    Member QuixoteDelMar's Avatar
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    Well, building from Dormouse's comment, it would be pretty easy, after accessing financial records, to find a regular payment going to the same source - generally, on retainer, the amount would be the same for ever transaction, which is a pretty major paper trail.

    Keeping a lawyer on retainer means paying for their time in advance - a lawyer who charges by the hour might have important or regular clients billed for his time in chunks of, say, twenty hours* before taking the case, and charge against that time.

    So, a computer savvy protagonist could locate the retainer accounts and check them for withdrawals matching the date and time of the trial. His client's - the person who hired him, not the person he was representing - name should be attached to the retainer account, as a matter of book-keeping. Or the case number, which a police officer would have access to, which skips the "find the account through payments" step. Failing that almost too-simple answer, any retainer paid, but not billed, is usually refunded when a trial ends, so you could follow the payments back to whatever account they were returned to, which would likely turn up an account number and not a name. However, an especially illicit or secretive client might have that kind of information hidden or expunged, or worse - hired the lawyer through a third party. In that case, the only recourse would be to question the lawyer directly. If there are no documents tying the lawyer to the villain, then there is just no way to get that information.

    But I'm not much of a hacker, and not much of a lawyer. This is all coming from vague recollections of legal dramas and one Grisham book I half remember, extrapolated through my own sensibilities. So you might want someone else to chime in too.

    *So $100 an hour becomes $2,000 payed upfront

  5. #5
    Okay thanks. But that's just it though, the villain would do that to hide himself, cause he doesn't want to be discovered. You say that there is no way to get the information. However, in thriller stories, there hero always manages to find a flaw in the villain's plan. But is this plan flawless, since you say there is no way to get the information? Or is there some flaw in here, that the villain would have to live with making that the hero would catch onto. Isn't there any cracks to finding out at all?

  6. #6
    Member Underd0g's Avatar
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    Since the MC is a criminal, there are any number of ways he could get the information.
    If you look at my profile, say "Hi!" But not in a creepy way.

  7. #7
    Member QuixoteDelMar's Avatar
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    I just meant that in that particular scenario, there was no way to find it by hacking the financial records of the lawyer. You can't follow a data trail that isn't there - in spite of what people think, computers only have the information you put on them. You can't just keyboard cowboy your way into info that doesn't exist, even with internet access.

    That said there are other options. You could check calls in and out - but if the calls were made from a burner then there is no way to trace it back to the owner. You could check surveillance footage to see who the lawyer met with - unless they always worked through an intermediary or met at a separate location. It's not that there are no alternatives, it's just that there are ways to counter every eventuality, and a sufficiently prepared Keyser Söze could, potentially, cover them all.

    That said, there is always a way. The one thing you can't count on is people, and it's always possible the lawyer has left a record the bad guy doesn't know about or doesn't want him to have. Maybe the lawyer investigated his boss, or attached his name to a file he shouldn't have. Maybe he was compiling blackmail material on his criminal contacts and left a slew of - inadmissible in court - evidence in a secure drive on his personal computer. Or maybe the guy could be blackmailed into spilling the info himself, using the inappropriate emails he's been exchanging with his married secretary.

    I don't know, just spit-balling ideas. You story - your ideas.

  8. #8
    Okay thanks. I was told before that if a third person wants is paying the lawyer, and wants status reports on the case, that the person wanting status reports has to sign a non-disclosure agreement to keep confidentiality of the case, since he is being prevy to privileged information. So if that is the case, and the villain would have to sign non-disclosure agreements to get status reports on the case, would the lawyer, have signed copies of these status reports then, with the villains information on them?

  9. #9
    Actually, someone read this section of my story, and they said that it's a plot hole, cause a person paying a lawyer does not legally have to give the lawyer his name for the lawyer's records. He can pay in secret, with the cash, and the lawyer has to legally accept, since it's legal to do that.

    Is that true though?

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