There is an old saying in the legal profession that goes “Your client’s case will never look better than the day it walks in the door.” That saying has certainly proven true in my experience. In the first client meeting, we only hear one side of the story, and most people have a tendency to exaggerate the facts that are helpful to them, and diminish those facts that are not. This tendency to exaggerate usually doesn’t cause significant issues, as we are trained to disregard the fluff and focus on the truly important issues so that we can provide effective legal advice and counsel.
There is one thing, however, that not even the best lawyer can prepare for: facts that clients don’t tell us. More than once, I have had clients relate the facts of their case to me, only to find out later that the client may have “forgotten” to mention one or two things. And not just little things, important facts that turn a winning case into a losing one. Now, it’s not that these clients are lying (usually). They just didn’t tell the whole truth.
It has always baffled me why many people feel compelled to hide “bad” facts from their own attorney. Maybe they are afraid that if they disclose these facts, the lawyer won’t take the case. Or maybe they are just afraid that the lawyer will look down on them. But whatever the reason, the result is the same: the lawyer cannot advise a client regarding facts that he doesn’t know.
Therefore, there is no reason to hide facts from your attorney. The attorney-client privilege means that anything you tell your lawyer will stay with your lawyer-we are ethically bound to hold that information in the strictest confidence. Further, most lawyers aren’t interested in passing judgment, we just want to represent our clients to the best of our abilities. Most bad facts can be dealt with as long as we know about them in advance. So, the next time you are in an attorney’s office discussing a potential case, don’t just tell the truth, tell the whole truth.
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