Tell your attorney everything. I know, this seems obvious. However, it is not quite so obvious for some.
Don't Let Your Lawyer be Surprised
A quick way to run a case off into the ditch is to let your lawyer learn some really damaging bit of information for the first time while standing before the judge. I know you are thinking: who would be dumb enough to do that? Believe me when I say it happens.
It is critical, no seriously, it is critical, that you tell your lawyer everything. Especially the really bad stuff you wish you did not have to tell anyone. Your lawyer is not going to judge you; he/she wants to help you. Failing to tell your lawyer everything is one of the quickest ways to severely damage a case. Sometimes, this can damage a case beyond repair.
If your lawyer knows about something and has an opportunity to brain storm, there is at least a chance to minimize the potential damage. I call it "putting lipstick on the pig." It's still a pig, it's still ugly, but sometimes the lipstick can make that ugly pig look substantially more attractive.
This being said, there are some things that are simply so bad that there is not much a lawyer can do to overcome them. Even so, the lawyer will know what's coming and at least not be caught off guard. The lawyer will at least have a chance.
Yes, this even happens to me every so often. Most of the time, I think it is inadvertent. Family cases take an emotional toll and are stressful. I think that people sometimes get so wrapped up in the drama that they just plain forget to tell me. Other times, I think it is deliberate because someone might think if I knew I might not take the case. They then pray that it does not come up in court.
"What is the worst possible thing she can say about you?"
I often ask people: "What is the worst possible thing she can say about you?" Most give me an honest answer and I can usually tell when someone is forthcoming. In fact, most people will give me a long list of things in an effort to make sure they don't leave anything out. Typically, once I hear the list, it turns out that the stuff is not as bad as people think. When I ask the question and get something in response, I can tell that someone is trying to be honest.
The scary client is the guy who, when asked "What is the worst possible thing she can say about you," immediately deflects and starts taking inventory of all the things that are wrong with the other party. This is the type of guy I try to send down the road. Let him become some other attorney's problem. No one is perfect, so when someone cannot tell me one single negative thing about their case, there is a problem.
I have learned many things about clients while standing in front of the judge at hearings. You name it, I have seen it. The ironic part is that, had I known these things from the start, I probably could have at least gotten a better outcome than where they landed by not telling me. A lawyer is a lawyer, not a magician. Don't leave your lawyer in the dark and expect him/her to pull a rabbit out of a hat. This is simply not going to happen.
Tell your lawyer everything. Let your lawyer be the one to apply the lipstick to the pig!
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