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Removing the Mystery from the Legal Process

The Importance of Being Honest

Ann Thompson - Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The best piece of advice I can give to potential clients is “tell your lawyer everything.*” Everything. Even if you think there's no way the other side can find out about some issue - tell her anyway. I guarantee that the other side will find it out, regardless.

The whole concept of a civil case is that each side knows everything about each side’s facts and argument before trial. (This is why most civil cases settle: there is little guesswork involved.) If both lawyers have done their jobs well, there will be little to no surprises at trail. Your lawyer will thoroughly investigate the other side. However, your lawyer will rarely feel the need to investigate all aspects of your life: she will ask you about what she views to be the relevant issues, and will rely on you to fill in the gaps she couldn’t have guessed about. Opposing counsel, however, will not trust you to provide this information. You should assume your credit card records, Facebook profile, your friends’ Facebook profiles, your emails, your public records, and your tax returns will all be carefully pored over by opposing counsel - don’t give them the advantage by lying or omitting information from your own attorney. Give your attorney as much information as possible.

Even if you have a doubt as to whether you should mention something to your attorney, always err on the side of telling her. It is much better for her to learn the facts, good or bad, well before a deposition or trial. If the information is bad, your lawyer can spend time figuring out how to block the information from being introduced at trial. If the information can't be blocked, your lawyer can figure out a way to spin it. And if there's nothing to be done with the bad information, and it's truly hurtful to your case? Well, your lawyer can save you a lot of time, effort, and money by telling you up front that you need to settle your case ASAP.

It’s human nature to spin facts to one’s advantage, especially when telling a “white lie” or covering up something small that’s just plain embarrassing. What if you don't tell your lawyer about something inconsequential, and then you lie about it in, say, a deposition? That lie will come back to haunt you. The other side will find it out, and opposing counsel will make you out to look like the biggest liar this side of the Mississippi. Nothing you say, even if the rest is totally accurate, will look true. Don’t exaggerate or cover up the facts, even if it the fact at issue doesn’t seem like a big deal.

*I don’t practice criminal law, but it is my understanding that if you’ve committed murder, confessing the details to your attorney is not always the best strategy. This article assumes you are a party to a civil case, not a criminal case.

 


Greenberg & LaPeyronnie is not your lawyer, and therefore the information contained in this blog post is simply informational, not legal advice. However, if you have any questions or are seeking legal advice, please call us at 504-366-8118 to set up a consultation today.