TEN BASIC RULES FOR CLIENTS
RULE #1: I WILL ALWAYS TELL THE TRUTH, THE WHOLE TRUTH AND NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH.
From the time of the Romans, it has been known, falsis in unum, falsis in omnibus (false in one thing, false in all). Telling the truth is so important, that in Model Pattern Jury Instruction 1:3: WITNESS TESTIMONY CONSIDERATION, Jurors are instructed as follows:
You are the sole judges of whether testimony should be believed. In making this decision, you may apply your own common sense and everyday experiences. In determining whether a witness should be believed, you should carefully judge all the testimony and evidence and the circumstances under which each witness has testified. Among the factors that you should consider are the following:
- the witness’ behavior on the stand and way of testifying;
- the witness’ opportunity to see or hear the things about which testimony was given;
- the accuracy of the witness’ memory;
- did the witness have a motive not to tell the truth?;
- does the witness have an interest in the outcome of the case?;
- was the witness’ testimony consistent?;
- was the witness’ testimony supported or contradicted by other evidence?; and
- whether and the extent to which the witness’ testimony in the court differed from the statements made by the witness on any previous occasion.
You need not believe any witness even though the testimony is uncontradicted. You may believe all, part, or none of the testimony of any witness.
Always, Always, Always tell the truth.
RULE #2: I WILL ALWAYS TELL MY ATTORNEY THE WHOLE STORY AND NOT JUST WHAT I THINK HE SHOULD HEAR
As your attorney, I can handle the truth, whether you believe that it is good or bad. I am trained to handle the both the good, bad and ugly. Which is worse, you hiding the truth from us and we learn about it in Court, or we know the entire story before you appear in court and we both can prepare for how it is to be communicated to the Judge in advance? It is always best for your attorney to present the bad with the good when he/she can control how the information is communicated rather than try to hide it from the Court or worse, the bad comes out during cross examination where there is little opportunity to engage in damage control.
RULE #3: NEVER GUESS
Along with Rules #1 and #2, is that you should never guess on what happened or occurred. Tell your story exactly as you saw, heard or witnessed the events. Avoid guessing, over-stating, or speculating. Say what occurred, not what you believed or thought occurred.
RULE #4: GET THE STORY OUT AND ANSWER THE QUESTION
Along with Rules #1, #2, and #3, if you are asked a question, answer the question. Do not talk for the sake of talking. If you do not understand a question then just say so. Always answer questions asked of you truthfully without elaboration. If your attorney or the Court requires more information, you will be asked another question. While in my office, I expect you to provide me with all of the facts, so you may elaborate to me the entire story. If I fail to ask you about something you believe is important, tell me so I may make note of it. It is your story that must be told to the Court, not the attorney’s. Remember to provide your attorney with the names of all witnesses too!
RULE #5: YOUR ATTORNEY IS YOUR BEST FRIEND, TRUST HIM/HER
It is more than my job to work for you, I have taken an oath to zealously represent you. If you do not like the job I am doing, please get another attorney. Otherwise, you should follow Rules 1, 2, 3 and 4 during all times of my representation of you. You should not discuss your case with anyone other than me, including a family member or close friend, because they could be compelled to testify against you. As your attorney, I can never be compelled, nor would I testify against a client. Do not believe your ex-spouse is telling you the truth either about your case. Many times they are trying to make you look bad or do something stupid (See Rule #6).
RULE #6: STAY OUT OF TROUBLE
This is a very basic Rule: do not do anything that would bring controversy upon yourself by doing something stupid that would give your opponent ammunition to shoot holes in your case. A criminal charge, domestic violence order, evidence of illegal drug use, or major traffic offense may be the “kiss of death” to you winning your case.
RULE #7: BE ON TIME
If you have a court appearance at 9:00 AM, do not arrive at 9:00 AM or later. Arrive in your attorney’s office at least 45 minutes to one hour in advance of trial unless you are instructed otherwise. Never be late for access periods, appointments, or meetings with Court Officials. They make a really big deal of promptness.
RULE #8: RESPECT THE COURT, YOURSELF, AND YOUR ATTORNEY
See Rule #7 above. Arrive for Court promptly and appropriately dressed. Do not wear jeans, T-shirts, sandals, exposed mid-riff blouses, suggestive or dirty clothing, or anything else that would give the Court the opportunity to question your judgment. While in Court, respect the Judge, Clerks, Bailiffs, Sheriffs, and opposing parties and Counsel. Despite what the Judge may say or do, he/she is the Judge, and you want something from that Judge. Act and speak accordingly.
RULE #9: IDENTIFY AND WRITE DOWN WHAT YOU EXPECT FROM YOUR ATTORNEY
If you do not know what you want from your case, how is your attorney or the Court to know? In priority, write exactly what your objectives are from your case. Be specific. Let your attorney know which objectives are very important, or not so important. Do not send your attorney off to Court with a false understanding of what is important to you, or why he/she is fighting for you.
RULE #10: BE HONEST ABOUT YOUR FINANCIAL RESOURCES
Litigation is expensive. As a “rule of thumb”, you should budget $5,000.00 for each full day your attorney is in court for you. Yes, $5,000.00 per day. If you do not have the financial resources, say so up front. Inform your attorney that you do not have a lot of money to mount a massive case, or that you may have to carefully chose your battles. The intake interview is the right time for you and your attorney to establish a budget on how your case should proceed. Far too many clients only ask how much money the Attorney wants “up front” to get started, never realizing that the “up front” is just a small percentage of the total cost of litigation. Always timely pay your attorney. If your attorney sees that your account is getting larger and larger, and you are not able to pay your bill, he/she may withdraw or cease working on your behalf. This Rule goes with Rule #1, being honest. Tell the attorney up front how much money you have to prosecute your case.