Friday, July 17, 2009

Clients Who Lie & The Attorneys Who Love Them

On the Next Jerry Springer...... A local priest in my town likes to joke that we are in the same business. We both have people come to us in confidence to discuss their "sins." The priest seeks absolution for the individual in heaven. The lawyer seeks absolution in court. When I meet with clients, I always remind them of the rules governing client confidentiality. The information they share will be held in strict confidence. I also stress the importance of telling the "whole story." Basically, I ask them for the truth. You want absolution? Tell me all of your sins and maybe the judge will forgive you. So why do some clients insist on lying? We're supposed to be on the same team. Maybe it's a Jack Nicholson thing. Maybe they think you can't handle the truth. I never understand why some clients feel the need to lie to their attorneys. How are we supposed to advocate effectively for our clients if we are getting a skewed version of the facts. Whether it's embarrassment or arrogance, some people can't seem to lay all the cards on the table. The truth eventually comes out. You can only hope that its not at a time that will be to the detriment of your client. It doesn't matter what type of law you practice. I've seen it in divorces, criminal matters, even real estate closings. Some clients may think they're smarter than you. They will try to feed you a version of the story that they think will benefit them. Some clients think they can outsmart you, the prosecutor and the judge. I notice this in situations where the client starts naming "witnesses" that can vouch for them. If its a larceny charge, they go into a long detailed explanation of how a group of items accidentally fell into their open purse. If its marijuana possession, its for their grandmother's glaucoma. If it's a divorce, they have no hidden bank account in Zurich. The truth usually comes out in discovery or the police report. I recently had a client who was arrested for drunk driving. In Connecticut, if it's your first offense chances are you will be eligible for an Alcohol Education Program. It's basically a one time get out of jail free card. As long as you do the required classes you will not have a conviction on your record. Not surprisingly, I asked my client if he was ever arrested for DUI in the past. He stated emphatically no. When his wife told me the truth, he got upset at her. "Why are you telling him about that?! You're embarrassing me." I told the guy that the wife just saved him from potentially perjuring himself in court. Had I gone by the client's word, he would have paid $150 for the AEP application fee and he would have stated on the record that he has never used such a program. Eventually, the court would have discovered the lie and we would have had additional court appearances to straighten out the mess. I also notice this problem in immigration matters. During interviews, an USCIS officer will ask a client a slew of questions including have you ever been arrested including matters where you used a court sanctioned diversionary program. In other words, you have to fess up even if there was no conviction. Lie about it and your application is denied. Some clients in these situations do not intentionally lie. They may be going on the poor advice of another attorney who may have told them that by using community service, etc. their record will be forever erased. Not surprisingly, when asked if they have ever been arrested, they might be inclined to answer no. So how do you get your client to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth? Here are a few Nutmeg Lawyer Tips. (These tips may also be used for the discovery portion of your civil matters): The Rack is a nice method for history buffs. If you enjoyed the Spanish Inquisition, you will enjoy getting information from your client in this manner. It consists of a wooden frame raised off the ground with a roller on one or both ends. You can substitute the wooden frame and rollers with your conference room table and two swivel office chairs. The client's feet are fastened to one roller, and the wrists are chained to the other If you have no chains, use neckties. We recommend Brooks Brothers ties. They'll give your interrogation a classy feel. As you interrogate your client, gradually increase the tension on the chains by turning the roller. The loud popping noises made by snapping cartilage take some getting used to. I find this method is also effective on my staff. Want to know who ate the last doughnut or who's taking all the pens? It won't be a mystery anymore. Waterboarding. It is disputed whether waterboarding will get the truth out of someone. You may want to also check your liability insurance on this one. It consists of immobilizing the victim on his or her back with the head inclined downwards, and then pouring water over the face and into the breathing passages.. By said forced inhalation of water, the client experiences the sensation of drowning. You will need lots of water. Some attorneys prefer Perrier or Evian, but this can get expensive. Using the water out of the water cooler will suffice. I do not recommend this method if your office has nice rugs. They can get water damaged.

The Magic Eight Ball was invented in 1946 and produced by Mattel. It is a small investment with a large return. You can question it on virtually every topic including "Is my client lying?", "What is the lowest amount opposing counsel will settle this case for?' and "Does Becky like me?" . An alternative method requires a folded up piece of notebook paper. This method will also tell you who you will marry and whether you will be rich. I do not recommend this method because it requires a complicated process where you need to pick your favorite color and number. You may need to outsource use of the device to a 12 year old girl.

Miss Cleo: This is the most expensive of our options as it requires paying by the minute for each call. You may subsitute Miss Cleo for Diane Warwick or anyone from the Psychic Readers Network. Before calling, make sure you have a valid credit card and first get permission from your parents.

We are currently exploring other methods including truth serum, Wonder Woman's Truth Lasso, Jedi mind tricks, lie detectors, and hiring my mother or wife. They always get the truth out of me.

Until then, make an effort to get the whole story out of your client.

2 comments:

Jessica said...

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California Divorce Lawyer said...

Lawyers need to know the truth to help their clients in the best way possible. Clients should not lie.