In some of my previous articles I have written about the importance of consulting a lawyer as soon as possible about your case, and retaining a lawyer at an early date. This article is about the importance of cooperating with the lawyer you have retained. You may think this is a peculiar statement because why wouldn’t you cooperate with your lawyer?
Well, cooperate may not be the right word. Sometimes clients “forget” to keep their lawyer in the loop; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer everything about a situation; sometimes clients will lie to their lawyers and think the truth will never be revealed; sometimes clients do not think it is important to tell their lawyer certain things; and sometimes clients do not consider that their actions in the midst of a case can impact their case, and do not consult their lawyers before taking such actions.
Examples of the above are:
1) When testifying at a Social Security disability hearing, my client, a tiny thin man, in his early 60’s, testified that he would and could frequently lift in excess of 50 pounds, and move furniture around to vacuum. After the hearing, his incredulous wife, who was about twice his size, told me that she recalled only once, many years prior to the hearing, that her client lifted a corner of a sofa so that she could vacuum under it, and that he never did housework. The client was obviously trying to appear more manly than he was to impress the hearing judge. His testimony lost his case for him. I, and all lawyers who handle disability cases, can relay similar stories.
2) More than one client has retained me to write their employer about the discriminatory treatment they were receiving at work, and then neglected to mention their concerns when the employer met with them to discuss their complaints, or they even resigned for “personal reasons” without mentioning the true reason for her resignation. Sometimes I have to learn about the resignation from the opposing counsel. Not only will these actions not help their cases, but certain benefits that could have been negotiated for them may be made moot by their actions.
3) More than one client has completed forms for a government agency, or has been asked to send a letter with their specific concerns to their employer, and despite them having retained a lawyer, and sometimes even sending us the forms or letter to review first, they have submitted the forms or letter in the midst of our review. Usually, the forms as completed or the contents of their letter are not helpful, and are sometimes detrimental, to their case.
4) More than one client has testified to something as a witness at a hearing or at a deposition that has surprised or even shocked me, because despite extensive preparation of the witness, the witness has never shared this information with me. This information often changes the entire complexion of the case.
So, the motto of this article is to cooperate with your lawyer, confide in your lawyer, consult with your lawyer, listen to your lawyer’s advice, do not lie to your lawyer, and tell your lawyer everything, even if you don’t think it will be helpful to your case. Your lawyer is better prepared if he or she knows the entire situation, and has been trained how to handle all information, good or bad.