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The Line You Do Not Cross - Blather. Rants. Repeat.
A Møøse once bit my sister ...
The Line You Do Not Cross
I've been practicing law for over 30 years, and have represented thousands of clients. In all that time, I've outright fired three of them. 

Only slightly more occasionally, some have fired me. On other occasions, clients and I have just gone separate ways after conclusion of a matter or matters where one or both of us knew it wasn't a good fit. But only the Unholy Trinity reached the point where I had to say, during the course of active representation, Enough. Two of them required court approval, which was granted each time.  The other was at a time where there was no active representation in a specific matter. Him, I literally left on the courthouse steps before the case even began.

It takes more than you'd think to get on my bad side that badly.  Here, basically, are the three ways you do it:

* Don't pay me in an especially egrigious way.  That does not mean "don't pay me." That happens way more often. When you deal with bankruptcy clients, it comes with the territory. But if you make a specific promise, especially when you know I'm counting on it- or, worse still, if you bounce a check on me, you had better make it good, or you're getting the door. 

* Don't respect our roles.  I won't tell you what to decide on matters of substance: you decide whether to buy or sell, whether to sue or settle, whether to take a more conciliatory approach or go balls to the wall.  But I decide (to the extent one even can decide) matters of timing and tactics; I grant extensions of time, pick dates, choose among different procedural routes to the same substantial end.  If you want in on that, apply to a law school and come see me in about four years. Otherwise, shut the fuck up.

Those two are pardonable sins. Make the account or the check good, or straighten up and fly right on who does what, and we're good.  But there's the third, where that ain't happening:

* Do not lie to me. EVER.


There's no need for a client to lie to a lawyer about a fact, a belief or an intention. You are protected by one of the strongest privileges in the world to keep that information from being used against you, and short of you contemplating future criminal action, I cannot reveal that you told me anything, true or otherwise. (I may be precluded from advancing a contrary position once I know it not to be true, but I subject myself to Bad Things if I tell anybody that you lied to me.)

Fortunately, I have, overall, a decent bunch of people coming to me. I do very little advertising, and make most of my living from past clients and referrals from them and fellow attorneys. And no client of mine inspired this post today.  But someone else's client did.

I cannot be more detailed here, other than to say that another lawyer represented some specific things to me that his client represented to him.  As statements of fact go, they were dumb things to lie about, because they could easily and independently be verified to be lies.

And, as of earlier this week, they were verified to be lies.

I do not blame his lawyer for not being a polygraph in a suit.  Although attorneys have the same obligation as anyone else to tell the truth, there are actually only a few specific situations in which we are expected to independently vouch for the truth of what our clients are saying.  This was not one of those. But still,- kinda dumb to put in writing that "my client contacted A, who did and said X, and also contacted B, who did and said Y," when A and B are well known sources of information and it could easily be determined that A and B, in fact, did no such things.

As a result, the other lawyer's client, directly or indirectly, is going to be subjected to potentially Bad Things.  And if his lawyer has the same senses of right and wrong that I do, they're going to be looking for new representation.
2 comments or Leave a comment
glenmarshall From: glenmarshall Date: December 18th, 2015 03:51 pm (UTC) (Link)
Being lied to in any profession sucks. I have fired consulting clients for that.
warriorsavant From: warriorsavant Date: December 18th, 2015 04:11 pm (UTC) (Link)
"Never lie to your doctor, your lawyer, or your confessor." Can't remember if that was Shakespeare, St. Augustin, or some other quotable dude. That having been said, Perry Mason pointed out that his clients are used to lying to people, so why not him too. He must be right, as he's famous, not to mention didn't actually ever exist.

2 comments or Leave a comment