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Tell Your Lawyer The Truth

by: Brian P. Deeb

God said it best to Moses – “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor”. That commandment barely made the top ten largely due to the second part the commandment which was lost in the destruction of the stone tablets – “Thou shalt not create false impressions about thyself for thy lawyer, lest ye shall suffer the consequences at trial”.

The importance of giving your lawyer ALL of the available facts, good or bad, is a point which cannot be stressed too much. Many people fear if they’re lawyer knows to much they will not believe in the case and will not do as effective a job. To the contrary, it the lawyer who finds out the weaknesses in the client’s case too late, that lawyer CANNOT do an effective job of representation.

It never fails – the Contractor, Subcontractor or Supplier walks into Mel Practice, Esquire’s office with a box of documents stating that he just built the greatest building in the world (since the Taj Mahal) and hasn’t been paid. Mel correctly asks if the client can think of any defenses which might be raised, to which the client replies “I have no idea”. Only when Mel and the client are leaving the courtroom, having suffered an adverse verdict, does the client remark “Sure I knew the building fell down, I just didn’t think it was important”.

In order for your attorneys to do their best and most effective work they need all of the information which you have. Remember the following guidelines:

(1) YOUR COMMUNICATION IS PRIVILEGED: Florida recognizes a broad attorney-client privilege which allows communications between attorney and client to remain confidential if the communication is in furtherance of the rendition of legal services to the client. This includes the initial client communication where details (good or bad) of the case are discussed. You do not have to worry about disclosure by your attorney of confidential communications between yourselves.

(2) ATTORNEYS CAN’T OVERCOMES WEAKNESSES THEY DON’T KNOW ABOUT: You go to attorneys to rely on their legal advice and counsel. They can’t help you if they don’t know what you need advice or counseling on. There may be laws which will help get you around whatever weakness you think your case has. There could be several possible ways of dealing with or overcoming your case’s weaknesses. To withhold this information from your attorney is to presume that such weaknesses are insurmountable which denies your attorney the opportunity to help you. In short, don’t presume to know that there is no way to overcome your weaknesses. There may be!!

(3) THE UNKNOWN WEAKNESSES COULD WELL OVERCOME THE STRENGTHS: If your lawyers hears the weaknesses at trial, it could be too late to salvage the whole case. Remember, the credibility of the witnesses (and the lawyer) can swing a case either way. If the lawyer stares with a blank expression after hearing what the client forgot to pass on, the Court may view this as a credibility deficiency overall and not believe the strong points of your case which your attorney had previously been advocating. There is a simple moral to this story – tell your lawyer the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth!!!!