Should You be Honest with Your Lawyer? Yes.
It doesn’t matter what legal action you’re involved in, lying to your lawyer (and yes this includes concealing the full truth) can only hurt you. Be honest with your lawyer.
In all cases, once a client has obtained the services of an attorney, disclosure of secrets (with a few exceptions that can be explained by the lawyer) are protected by Attorney-Client Privilege. According to the Free Legal Dictionary by Farlex this means, “That privilege that permits an attorney to refuse to testify as to communications from the client. It belongs to the client, not the attorney, and hence only the client may waive it.”
What this means is that attorneys cannot share secrets that a client has told them in confidence. So it behooves all clients to share anything that would be pertinent to the case. Even though Attorney-Client Privilege is factually evident, there are many emotional reasons for clients withholding crucial information from their own lawyers.
Sharing it makes it real
“Sometimes clients can remain in denial about wrongdoing if they feel like they are the only one who is aware of it,” says family law attorney Kathryn Wayne-Spindler, “they think if they tell their attorney, it will become part of the legal record.” As Wayne-Spindler says “It’s all confidential. I can’t expose it. And, if people tell me their concerns, I can be prepared and file the appropriate paperwork to protect them.”
Some clients put on their best face for their attorney. They are trying to portray their best self in order to gain sympathy and “get the attorney on their side.” Clients often feel like they have to share only positives in order to have an attorney take on their case. Although this is certainly a temptation at the outset, once hired, the lawyer is bound to represent his or her client to the best of their ability whether he/she likes the client’s past actions or not, according to the American Bar Association’s Model Code of Professional Responsibility.
If new information comes to light after the attorney and client have begun working together, the attorney has the right to discontinue representing the client, but the attorney can still not share any of the information revealed by the former client.
When confronted about concealing pertinent information, some clients claim that they didn’t know that an infraction had anything to do with the case at hand. As a point of reference when deciding what is pertinent to share, think about what information your attorney could use about your opponent in order to help win your case. Then reverse the situation, use that same standard, and assess what information your opponent’s lawyer is likely trying to gather against you. Domestic violence, drunk-driving charges, and substance abuse almost always have a bearing in family law cases. Just as your lawyer will want to hear about the other party’s faults, the other side’s lawyer will look at yours. It’s best to alert your attorney so that he or she can be prepared to respond when the other side brings it up.
“No lawyer wants to be surprised by his or her client’s past in the courtroom. It weakens the case and makes the lawyer look bad,” said Wayne-Spindler. “So, be honest with your lawyer.”
Don’t think that just because you haven’t told anyone about past transgressions, there isn’t a record. There are no secrets in our tech-heavy world. In this day and age there are security cameras everywhere. There are cameras in airports, stores, schools and even nanny cams in homes.
In addition, computers provide a world of evidence that wasn’t available years ago. It used to be that once a document was physically shredded, the only copy was gone. Now we scan; email; take screen-shots; record cookies; bookmark favorites; text photos; and search police records. And with the help of super-fast servers, attorneys and the private investigators they work with, can quickly and efficiently comb through thousands upon millions of files online.
If you got a DUI 10 years ago, you can be sure that the other side will find records of it. Hiding it from your own lawyer doubles the damage when it’s eventually discovered by the other side (and it will be) because the original guilt is compounded by the lies to cover it up. Then you and your lawyer have damaged credibility as well.
“I understand why people might try to hide their pasts, “ says Wayne-Spindler, “but in legal situations, it’s always best to be honest with your lawyer and give them the chance to provide you with a realistic range of outcomes based on all the facts.”
Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates is a family law, divorce, estate, and adoption firm based in Milford, MI and serving clients in five counties of Southeastern Michigan. Contact the office at 248-676-1000. The experienced Oakland County attorneys help clients in Milford; Highland; Hartland; White Lake; Commerce Township; Walled Lake; Waterford; West Bloomfield; Howell; South Lyon; New Hudson; Linden; Grand Blanc; Holly and many more local communities.
Written and Posted by Christine Donlon Long, Communications’ Specialist for Kathryn Wayne-Spindler & Associates.