Lawyers have to follow many rules when dealing with their clients, but there is probably on one real rule a client should follow when dealing with their attorney: Always Tell the Truth.
A lawyer cannot adequately represent you if he does not have all of the information. I cannot begin to count the number of times in my legal practice that I have learned important information about a client’s case in the middle of testimony at a trial, information that could have been utilized to help the client’s case or explained away to avoid damaging a client’s case.
In my practice as a Missouri divorce attorney, the most common fact clients lie about (or fail to tell me about) is adultery. If a client does not tell me they cheated on their spouse, then I can only assume they did not cheat. Once we are in trial or a deposition and my client is testifying, there is very little I can do to put out the fire. In my opinion, Judges dislike lying a lot more than cheating. Cheating is not illegal in Missouri, that is not to say a judge cannot consider a spouse cheating in a divorce case, but it is safe to assume a judge will doubt the veracity of everything a witness says if that witness is caught in a lie.
I understand there are many things clients are embarrassed to share with their attorney, or anyone else for that matter. The important thing to remember is that while your attorney is human, he or she is a trained professional and should not ever judge you or make you feel humiliated for your actions. As an attorney, I accept my clients as they are. After many years in the legal profession there are not many things that clients tell me that are new or shocking to my conscience. To use a cliché, I have heard it all. There is no need to be embarrassed.
If you divulge personal information to your attorney and he or she laughs at you or makes you feel small or belittles you in anyway, you are probably with the wrong attorney. I do not mean an attorney should not give clients honest, unbiased opinions, but they should not judge the clients actions. For example, in a divorce where child custody is at issue, if a client were to tell me they sleep with 4 different men a week, every week, my opinion might be that they should not do it in the presence of their children, but I certainly would never imply that their actions, if legal, are wrong.
Always telling the truth to your attorney is imperative. The benefits far outweigh the moments of discomfort you might feel. Every case is unique and the information contained here is intended to be general in nature and not legal advice for any particular case. It is best to seek the advice of an attorney to see how the law applies to your particular case.