Saying No To Clients: The Requirements Of Professionalism

There is one duty that a lawyer owes to his client and that is to be truthful with them. In many cases clients need counseling and need it badly. Sometimes clients do not want to hear the truth and take pains to avoid it. Oftentimes clients will turn on their attorneys when the attorney tries to tell them the truth of their situation. In such circumstances the client will accuse the lawyer of not being zealous in his or her representation or not believing in the client’s case completely or otherwise failing to fulfill the expectations of the client. In such circumstances, nonetheless, counsel must be firm with their client because that is why they are being paid for: to provide the best professional advice under the circumstances presented.
Experience teaches that clients must be told the truth regarding their case whether the client wishes to hear it or not. This is the fundamental obligation of all attorneys: to provide the best possible professional advice as objectively as can be stated. The client is paying for legal advice and if they do not want to hear it then perhaps they need to get another attorney. Even though sometimes the truth is difficult for clients to hear they, nonetheless, need to be told the truth at all times. If there are weaknesses in their case, they need to be told. If there are strengths in their case, they need to be told. If the law favors their claim so be it, but if the law does not favor their claim, it must be explained to them so that they understand that their case has legal deficiencies. Either way, the fundamental duty of all attorneys and a professional requirement is to be honest with the client, to explain to the client what their options are and to be faithful to the requirements of the profession which is to render the best possible legal advice under the circumstances with an adherence to ethics and professionalism at all times.
Zealous representation of a client does not mean abandoning objectivity nor does it mean “sugar coating” certain facts in order not to offend or discourage the client. Clients are adults and they need to be treated as adults. Unless the lawyer is prepared to speak the truth, the lawyer needs to withdraw from the case. Unless the client is prepared to hear the truth, the client needs to seek counsel elsewhere. When dealing with clients, being truthful at all times is a requirement of the profession and clients deserve no less.

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