Why You Should Be Honest With Your Attorney

Off The Record: Episode 1

   

Noel: Why do you need to be honest with your attorney? Find out next on Off the Record. Now, Tim, why don’t you ever sugarcoat things to your client? They always come in and they want to hear you tell them that everything’s gonna be great. They always are looking for an attorney to give them that answer that everything’s gonna be okay, everything’s gonna be just fine.

And you know what?

I tell them every single time, I’m gonna shoot it straight with you. I’m gonna tell you the way it is. Because hey, look, I need honesty from you. The last thing you want to do is lie to your attorney. That’s the last person you want to lie to. I know that’s the way you do business too.

Tim: Well, I think it comes down to a fundamental core value that we really share. It’s really one of the three core values we have at our law firm, and we like to call them the three I’s: integrity, intentionalism, and intensity. And integrity, I’ve always believed that either you have it or you don’t.

Noel: You’re absolutely right about integrity because the integrity is something that you can easily lose and it is very difficult to get back. Your client wants that integrity. They want you to tell them the truth. They might not think that they want to hear it, but absolutely, it is something that they have to hear. Otherwise, their expectation is through the roof. And the trouble with the things that we do is that they are dealing with some serious, serious issues.

Tim: Well, the issue is we need to set our clients up for success. It’s like going to a financial planner and telling them your financial situation and the financial planner tells you, yep, you’re going to be just fine for retirement, you’re gonna have plenty of money, then you get to be 66 and you’re broke. It’s all about integrity and knowing what the situation is.

I’m a problem solver, you’re a problem solver, so I need to know what the problem is before I consult so when someone tells me what the issue is, that helps me best know how to defend it. If a client comes in, this happens all the time, we get lied to every day and it drives me crazy. If you would go to a doctor and you have heart palpitations but you go and tell the doctor your knee is hurting, well, you’re gonna probably die from a heart attack. So some clients come into our office and they may tell me or you may tell your lawyer or you’re nervous, you don’t want to tell them what’s going on. I can’t solve a problem where I don’t know what it is. And so once I know the problem and that client has that integrity with me, I always have that back for them.

We have to shoot it straight because I’m here to win your case and put you in the best position possible, but I can’t do that if I’m not honest with you or don’t tell you what the real story is. And that’s where it comes down to not sugarcoating anything. And I’ll try any case, but I have to know that it’s all about risk management for a client. You have to know what you’re getting into so I can devise the best strategy.

Sugarcoating it is how people end up in jail and it’s how they end up in prison, and frankly, Noel, it’s why you get so many calls two, three years later saying, “Hey, Noel, can you do my appeal?”.

Because they got lied to or the attorney wasn’t honest with them, or they weren’t honest with the attorney.

Noel: Oh, that’s absolutely the case. It’s usually the first way around, is that they’re not honest with the attorney. And that gives bad advice because if they’re getting garbage in, they can only give garbage out.

Getting Over Your Embarassment

Tim: You can understand that. Imagine if you had an STD, God forbid, right? You go to the doctor, that’s an embarrassing moment. Until you have that honest conversation as embarrassing as it is, maybe you got picked up on a sting operation, maybe you were texting someone and you thought they were a little bit older than 15, but whatever situation you find yourself in, if you don’t have the ability to get over it, just get over it because you’re not gonna get over it when you’re in prison. And so going back to my analogy about maybe having that STD, if you just go and tell the doctor what it is as embarrassing as that might be, he’s gonna give you the remedy to fix it and will be honest with you. That’s why you can’t sugarcoat anything in this line of work and have any modicum of success.

Noel: Well, I get it, I get it. They don’t want to come in and talk to a lawyer and tell them all those embarrassing things. Trust me, I’ve been practicing law for over 20 years now. If you think that the story you’re gonna tell me is the worst story that I’ve heard, you’re absolutely wrong.

Tim: You know what’s embarrassing? Calling your mom up and then your mom answers the phone, “This is a recorded call from the naval brig Miramar.” And why am I getting called from the Miramar? “Hey mom, I’m locked up.” That’s an embarrassing call to have to make.

Noel: That’s an embarrassing call.

Being Honest Gives You A Better Chance At Winning

 

Bilecki and Tipon ScreenshotTim: I’d much rather not have to make that call and tell my lawyer exactly what’s going on and have them shoot straight so you have a real chance of winning this than have to have a recorded call to your mom to explain why you’re in jail because you were texting with somebody who might have been a little younger than they should have been.

Noel: But they don’t want you as their lawyer to come in and have to argue their case with all of these embarrassing facts, right? That’s why they lie to you at first.

Tim: Correct.

Noel: Because you’re gonna go in there and they’re gonna come in and you’re gonna say, “Hey, look, Tim, this is what happened to me” and they’re gonna sugarcoat it with you because they think, “Well if I tell this guy, my lawyer the truth, he’s gonna have to go into court and he’s gonna have to advocate for me.” It’s not like when you tell the doctor this, he’s gonna keep it private.

Tim: That’s a great point.

Noel: But your lawyer is gonna have to tell somebody else your story. And so that is part of their embarrassment. But we have to get over it. You have to get over it because you’re going to advocate for them.

Tim: And how do you talk about talking to clients with honesty and integrity about how their case works? Clients say all the time, “Hey, how does my case look? What are the odds?” How do you approach that, Noel?

Noel: Well, first of all, you have to have all the facts and it’s about getting the truth from your client. And I know it’s tough to tell people stuff. It’s tough to tell your lawyer, but you have to give us all the facts. So I’m one of those lawyers. I’m not one of those guys who’s gonna say, “Hey, look, just don’t tell me what you did or not, I’m not gonna care whether or not you testify.” I want to know everything. And if they hear that from you, that they get the truth from you, that’s gonna give them a lot more trust because they want their lawyer to believe in their case, good bad or the ugly.

Tim: No, because you actually give a damn too.

Noel: That’s absolutely true.

Tim: Because you give a damn because you want to get the best result possible and I don’t know how do you get the best result possible if I don’t have all of the information. And once you have all the information we can be honest with our advice, show you that same integrity and that level of integrity and not sugarcoat it for you to give you the best chance of not losing.

Noel: I mean how many times have you heard from these guys that come in after you see the free lawyer, either the TDS lawyer, the military lawyer, or even another private lawyer and they say, “Hey, he didn’t even want to hear my story. He didn’t even want to hear what I had to say.”

Tim: All the time. Or just you’re gonna have to take a deal.

Noel: Oh, that’s the first thing out of their mouth is after you tell them the truth, “Oh you are gonna have to take a deal.” That’s when you know that you’ve gone down the wrong path, is when your lawyer tells you off the bat before even reading a single piece of paper that they want you to take a deal.

Tim: It goes back to the core principle of integrity. Integrity is either a character trait or a character flaw. You don’t have just a little bit of it. You’ve got to have that as a character trait.

Noel: And if you want that best chance of success, you have to have that integrity with us because we’ll have that integrity with you.

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