Tell Your Lawyer the Truth: Help Your Lawyer Help You
Many of the most frustrating experiences I’ve ever had as a lawyer involved finding out something important for the first time during a hearing or trial. Sometimes, it’s because a client didn’t know it was important enough to tell me about. Other times, it’s because my client flat-out, intentionally lied to me.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering why clients lie, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there are multiple possibilities.
I think some clients lie because they are ashamed for anyone to know the truth. The truth - an extramarital affair, illicit drug use, an instance of very bad parenting judgment - can be embarrassing. The problem, of course, is that court proceedings are designed to get to the truth. Whether the client wants it to happen or not, the truth usually finds a way out.
Telling your lawyer the truth makes it more likely that your lawyer will be prepared to defend you against whatever it is. There are strategies your lawyer can help you implement to reduce the impact of bad facts, but your lawyer can’t help you if your lawyer doesn’t know.
Telling your lawyer the truth also builds trust between you and your attorney. I am less inclined to want to help someone I can’t trust, and when a client lies to me about something serious, my response is usually to remove myself from representation of that client as soon as possible.
Just tell us the truth so we can help you. Seriously. We have heard it all, and we probably will find out anyway.