Honesty is only one factor that controls whether or not I will take a client. Some outrageous liars have made great clients and some dedicated truth-tellers have been really bad clients. Lying to me is not a good sign but it’s not completely destructive either. My bigger problem is with clients who don’t tell me things. They don’t lie, they just don’t keep me in the loop.
Part of a litigator’s job is to go after the facts which are likely to come out at trial. This is what I’ve been known to tell clients:
- The judge doesn’t care what you think happened.
- The judge doesn’t care what they think happened.
- The judge doesn’t care what actually happened.
- The only thing the judge cares about is what he thinks happened and the only way the judge will decide what happened is by looking at the evidence I can show him at trial.
So what evidence do we have that I can show the judge? What evidence to they have to show the judge? How did that happen? Strange stuff will happen on occasion and my job is to show that it did.
One thing I can do to uncover the evidence and the story is to ask the client to write down the story. Give me the complete story from your point of view. Don’t leave out anything. I never know what I’ll need so give it all to me and if I get surprised by a missing fact or detail they are the ones who will have to pay Once I have the full story from the client I can survey it and ask questions. Only if I cannot reconcile things to I explain the ethical options and obligations to the court that I will face.