Sunday, November 26, 2006

Giving advice to clients

I hear from lots of attorneys about the difficulty in getting clients to make the right decisions. I hear that. Sometimes, especially when I'm taking over for other lawyer's clients, it can be hard to make them understand that sometimes admitting to something you didn't do is the right thing. I mean, they can take the chance and I'll go to trial any day on any case, but actual innocence gets you nowhere if you look guilty. Losing that gamble can mean years in prison.

And I hate trying to explain to people with unduly pessimistic or optimistic views of their case what reality is. I have to say 'Yes, you can lose and go to prison' or 'no, there is really no way that we can lose so you should consider take the risk and going to trial.' When I do the former, people often think I'm working for the prosecutor when I'm just trying to make them understand the drawbacks so they aren't later all surprised.

The hardest case for me are the arguable cases where there is no clear advice to give. I seem to have too many of these and thus too many clients looking to me. I didn't become a lawyer because I had a God complex. I don't want to make these decisions about people's lives, I came here to help people decide by providing them all the options and telling them that I'd fight hard for them whatever they choose.

But people's choice far too often is to say 'whatever you think.' What? Whatever I think? Geez, that's hard. Often I don't know enough to make a decision for them. Are they risk takers? How old are they? Have then done a long prison bid? Would losing totally change their life or are they doing life in prison on the installment plan anyways?

This certainly gives me something to give thanks about: at least I don't need to make these kind of horrible decisions on my own behalf.