As a lawyer, what are top things you wish your clients would stop saying/doing?
What a great question. Thank you for asking.
I have a three-part answer: 1) for all situations, 2) in criminal law, and 3) in family law.
In all situations:
- The moment you honestly think you could be or might be in legal trouble, consult a good lawyer (a good lawyer, not just any lawyer—a law license alone does not guarantee competence; not even close). Do not wait. Do not jump over dollars to pick up dimes. What makes a lawyer’s job hard is when people wait too long and miss out on all the help the lawyer could have been from the beginning.
- Sometimes it’s better (and less expensive) to take your lumps and move on with your life than it is to try to get justice through the courts. The legal system is fairly well-designed but is, by and large, deplorably administered, and it’s only getting worse.
- A good lawyer is only as good as the client who follows his advice.
- Despite what you see on TV, good lawyers are not wizards; they cannot make silk purses out of pig’s ears no matter how much you offer to pay them.
- Good lawyers are not wusses. Threatening them and complaining to them will not make them or your case any better.
In criminal law:
Do not speak with the police without a lawyer to confer with you. If you think that this is only good advice for criminals, you could not be more wrong. This is a rule that protects the innocent.
The reasons why may not be immediately apparent, even to lawyers like me.
So here is a superb explanation from a lawyer and a police officer who discussed the matter together. Watching and understanding these videos by Professor James Duane could spare you or a loved one misery, jail, and ruin (they are that good, and they are really interesting too):
Don’t Talk to the Police – He’s absolutely right. Ignore his advice at your peril.
You Have the Right to Remain Innocent – watch this to the end. Fascinating insights.
In family law:
- Stay frosty, stay classy in all your interactions with your spouse during your divorce case. It keeps you out of trouble. It keeps that white hat squarely on your head.
- No matter how big an ass your spouse is, do not rise to the bait. That’s what your spouse wants you to do.
- Don’t fight fire with fire. Don’t make it easy for your spouse to cast you as the bad guy.
- Two wrongs don’t make a right. Don’t let Murphy’s Law victimize you. Remember how the referee always seems not to notice the guying who’s fouling you the whole game? And so you think, “Well, if the ref won’t call fouls, then I’m more than justified in defending myself and pushing back, just this once.” And that’s precisely when the foul gets called on you.
- When it comes to “winning” a case for joint legal and joint physical custody, you will not appear to be the better parent by trying to make your spouse look worse.
- You win the custody fight by giving the judge every reason to believe it will work.
- Judges get tired of couples airing their dirty laundry in public. Judges award joint custody when they believe the parents can get along. Even if your spouse is a terrible person and all you do is tell the awful truth, tearing your spouse down will usually not build you up and will only convince the judge that you and your spouse will not/cannot co-parent successfully.
- Don’t lie because your spouse is lying. Don’t lie to “neutralize” your spouse’s lies.
- Please see this paradox for the truths it contains: lying in your divorce actually works quite well, until it doesn’t.
- “If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.” ― Mark Twain
- You aren’t nearly as good a liar as you believe. No, really.
- No, really. Accept it. Tell the truth, if only to avoid having your unartful lying sink you.
- There is a vast difference between what you believe to be true, what you know to be true, and what you can prove to the judge with verifiable evidence.
- If you cannot prove it with objective, verifiable evidence, don’t be surprised if the court does not believe you.
- So don’t stake your case on merely “telling my true story”; that’s rarely enough.
- If you don’t have the evidence to win on a certain issue, don’t set your heart on winning on that issue. You will likely be disappointed, if you do.
- Your divorce is going to cost you 4 to 10 times more than you think. The better you prepare, the better you understand the law, and the better you accept the limitations of the legal system, the less money you’ll waste.
Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277