What is your duty to the client? Lawyer beware!

Norm Pattis asks an interesting question.

"Lawyer cops among us appear to demand that the client be coddled at all costs. I recently put the following question to an ethics panel: Suppose in a case you come to believe that a certain issue is without merit. Are you obliged to obtain your client’s consent before withdrawing the claim? The unanimous decision was "yes." If a client insists on pursuing a meritless claim, then you must do what the client wants, whether it makes sense or not…

"That’s not law. That’s little more that intellectual pinball. Of course, these same ethics experts remind us that we can move to withdraw when a client insists on an unreasonable objective. So I guess that is the answer in the brave new world of legal ethics. Worship the client, and then beg to be relieved by the Court when you learn that you should perhaps have had the client consent to an independent medical examination at the same time they signed the retainer."

The net conclusion, I think, is that communication skills are essential ingredients to a successful lawyer-client relationship. It’s essential that the client knows what the lawyer is doing, and that the client approves of the tactics to be taken to achieve the client’s strategy/goal.  This essence has been brought home to me once again as a result of a matter in which my son is involved. His lawyer is advising him of what "the law is," what his rights are, what he can expect in dealing with the opposing party. However, the lawyer, thus far at any rate, has not advised my son what he, the lawyer, recommends or what the lawyer believes will be the outcome as the matter unfolds.  That leads me to conclude that my son is not being well-advised. In fact, the lawyer may be doing every right, everything he can to protect my son’s interests. But, how would one know? It seems to me that the obligation to promote quality communication between attorney and client and to assure that the client has a good  understanding of what to expect lies squarely with the attorney; he/she is  the professional in this matter and the one getting paid to do this.


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