RD.COM Knowledge Facts
Lauren CahnUpdated: Nov. 27, 2022
Got a dispute? A divorce? A potentially lucrative deal? Read these insider tips before you think about calling a lawyer.
When should you hire a lawyer?
When disputes arise, a person’s first inclination is often to call a lawyer, attorney Randolph Rice tells Reader’s Digest. But there are many situations in which hiring a lawyer is the last thing you should do. Says Rice, ideally, everyone would resolve disputes without lawyering up. “Getting lawyers involved can escalate tensions and delay resolution, all at great time and expense.” Take it from an attorney—before hiring one, consider if there are other ways to resolve your dispute. Maybe start by checking out these hilarious lawyer jokes.
Before hiring a lawyer
“When you have a dispute with someone, the first thing a lawyer does is send a demand letter hoping to resolve the dispute,” explains attorney, Russell D. Knight. On reading a demand letter, the other person will often say, “this isn’t worth the trouble” and they quickly settle. But here’s a secret from Knight: You don’t need a lawyer to write a demand letter. You can do it yourself. Just make it look as formal as possible, and you may find your dispute goes away—no charge to you.
How to tell a good lawyer from a bad lawyer
It’s not as hard as you might think, according to attorneyRandall M. Kessler, author of Divorce: Protect Yourself, Your Kids and Your Future. “Shop around and trust your instincts,” he advises. “Does the lawyer listen to you? Do they explain things in a way you can understand? And are they willing to discuss fees and costs? The person you hire will need to be someone you trust and believe in, so be sure you feel very good about them from the start.”
What others think about your lawyer matters
Check your potential lawyer’s reputation. “Many cases are won, and lost, on the reputations of the lawyers involved,” attorney Rice tells Reader’s Digest. “In the courtroom, if your lawyer has an outstanding reputation, the judge may give your case some deference, for example.” Outside the courtroom, your lawyer’s reputation could color the way the attorneys on the other side respond to requests for information and offers to negotiate.
“See you in court” is a bit misleading
In choosing your attorney and your plan of action in resolving a dispute, it’s important to consider that despite what you see on television, most cases never see the inside of a courtroom. Typically, they’re settled outside the courtroom because of the time and expense involved, according to attorneyDarren Heitner, author of How to Play the Game: What Every Sports Attorney Needs to Know.
Don’t miss the 22 funniest court cases of all time.
Warehouse of Images/Shutterstock
In fact, a lawyer should try to stay out of court
“In my experience, a good lawyer always finds every opportunity to keep a case from being decided by a judge, and only relents on trying a case before the bench when all alternatives have been exhausted,” attorney, Jason Cruz says. “If a lawyer suggests they want to try the case in front of a judge, you should definitely speak with another lawyer before proceeding,”
Be honest, expect honesty
It’s imperative that both the lawyer and the client approach one another with complete honesty, attorneyPaul Edelstein, tells Reader’s Digest. “Winning cases can be lost because of a client who lies or exaggerates just as easily as because of a lawyer who tells the client what the client wants to hear instead of what is true.” So when dealing with attorneys, don’t just look for honesty—be honest.
Be prepared for your meetings
“If you want to improve your chances of securing the best lawyer to take your case, you need to prepare before you meet them,” advises attorney Stephen Babcock. “Get your story, facts, and proof together well before your first meeting.” This not only ensures that you understand your own needs, but it helps a good lawyer to ascertain whether he or she can actually help you. “We want the best clients too. Proving you’re organized and reliable helps us.”
Make sure you’re not seeking a brain surgeon for a foot injury
“Many people assume that any lawyer can handle any problem,” attorney Jory Lange points out to Reader’s Digest. But like doctors, lawyers have specialties, and that’s where their talents and experience lie. “When you choose a lawyer, make sure they have experience with your type of case,” Lange advises.
Don’t hire an “attack dog” as your divorce attorney
When choosing whom to hire, not only should your lawyer’s practice specialty come into play, but so should your lawyer’s personal style, points out Lara Bazelon, Associate Professor of Law and director of the Criminal Juvenile Justice and Racial Justice Clinical Programs at the University of San Francisco School of Law. For example, most divorces can be handled using online forms and mediation, she explains. If you involve “lawyers prone to adversarial stances,” things will get much uglier—and much more expensive.
Here’s how to find the best divorce lawyer for your situation.
The fuzzy side to billable hours
Many lawyers charge “per hour,” but when it comes to billable hours, an hour isn’t always an hour, Robinson points out. What if you talk to your lawyer on the phone for 30 seconds? Will your lawyer bill you for a full hour? A 15-minute segment? Or something closer to 30 seconds? These are the questions you should be asking, says Robinson, because it can make a huge difference in your bill.
Expenses add up
When hiring an attorney, a potential money pit is “expenses” outside of the lawyer’s billable hours. Expenses include everything—copying and faxing costs, hiring expert witnesses, and even traveling via private jet, points out attorney Justin C. Roberts. Some lawyers don’t just pass the charges along; instead, they charge an additional percentage fee. Whatever their method, you need to know it up front so there won’t be any surprises when the bill arrives.
Think twice about “good deals”
“Be wary of lawyers who quote low fees—noticeably lower than the standard—in order to get your business,” advises attorney Nathaniel Pitoniak. “Consumers should use their instincts about the work ethic, honesty, and relevant experience of a lawyer instead of making their decision on percentage points. If a lawyer’s fee sounds too good to be true, it’s likely because they struggle to retain business or don’t anticipate putting much effort towards your case—both are bad for someone who needs a strong lawyer.”
Insurance denials are appealable
If you feel helpless when faced with an insurance denial, please know that you might be able to appeal with the help of a qualified lawyer, says David Himelfarb, attorney. Insurance companies routinely deny long-term disability claims, for example, particularly because it’s assumed that most people don’t have access to reputable attorneys to challenge the denial. “This is where intricate knowledge of the legal and insurance process, as well as the right team of experts to prove the claim, can reverse the odds.”
Did you know these 13 everyday things can get you sued?
Originally Published: November 20, 2018
Lauren Cahn is a New York–based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest and in a variety of other publications since 2008. She covers life and style, popular culture, law, religion, health, fitness, yoga, entertaining and entertainment. Lauren is also an author of crime fiction, and her first full-length manuscript, "The Trust Game," was short-listed for the 2017 CLUE Award for emerging talent in the genre of suspense fiction.
The attorney-client privilege is a rule that protects the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and clients. Under the rule, attorneys may not divulge their clients' secrets, nor may others force them to.What you should not tell your lawyer? ›
- My case will be easy money for you. ...
- I have already done the work for you. ...
- I forgot I had an appointment. ...
- I've already talked to a lot of other lawyers. ...
- I don't have all my documents.
The attorney-client privilege protects only communications, not facts. Clients cannot hide facts by telling them to their lawyers. What is privileged is the content of the communications between the clients and their lawyers. What clients say or write to their lawyers is privileged.Can you really tell your lawyer everything? ›
The attorney-client privilege is a legal protection that keeps communications between lawyers and their clients confidential. This means that you can tell your lawyer almost anything without worrying that it will be used against you in court.Can you sue someone for telling your secrets? ›
If someone makes false statements against you and damages your career, personal life, and public reputation, you have the legal right to file a slander lawsuit.Are you supposed to be honest with your lawyer? ›
You Have Client-Attorney Privilege
Essentially, this privilege prevents your lawyer from discussing the details of your case with others. For this reason, you should feel comfortable telling your lawyer the truth, as they are required to keep all information having to do with your representation between the two of you.
- Lack of communication.
- Scope of representation.
- Fee disputes/Excessive fees.
Objection. Objection to the form, your Honor. Objection, your Honor, leading.Why do lawyers object to everything? ›
The primary reason an attorney makes an objection is to preserve his right to appeal if he loses the case.Can a lawyer purposely lose a case? ›
Lawyers are also required not to mislead the court, which means the lawyer would then have to contact the judge and/or opposing lawyer and give the case up immediately. It wouldn't be ethical to argue the case as if hoping to win while intending to lose.
A new Rule of Professional Conduct applicable to California lawyers says that while representing a client, a lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person. Rule 4.1 is aimed at lawyers communicating with opposing counsel or an opposing party.What happens if you tell your lawyer the truth? ›
If you tell your attorney the truth, they cannot let you testify on your behalf at trial and perjure yourself (lie) on the stand. You should also be aware that your attorney cannot lie on your behalf as this violates the ethical standards required of attorneys.Do most lawyers know each other? ›
In most counties and especially in the area of family law, the lawyers know each other well because they practice in front of the Judges and among themselves so often.Can you sue someone for saying bad things about you? ›
A slander lawsuit is a lawsuit you can file after someone defames you. Defamation occurs when someone makes a false statement of fact to a third party and causes you harm as a result. Defamation is a tort, which means it is a civil wrong, so you can file suit to obtain monetary damages from the person who committed it.Is keeping secrets a form of manipulation? ›
Many people may even know they are being manipulated in their relationship and choose to overlook or downplay it. Manipulation in intimate relationships can take many forms, including exaggeration, guilt, gift-giving or selectively showing affection, secret-keeping, and passive aggression.Can you sue someone for being deceitful? ›
If you have been defrauded or deceived by an unscrupulous professional or business, you should know your rights under federal and state law. You may be able to bring a civil claim for damages in addition to reporting the matter to the appropriate government agency for investigation.Can a lawyer know you did the crime? ›
Although popular culture may detest the work that criminal lawyers do, the function of a lawyer is crucial in order to maintain justice and ensure fair outcomes for anyone that is facing legal charges. Truthfully, a defense lawyer almost never really knows whether the defendant is guilty or not of the charged crime.What are the four responsibilities of lawyers? ›
- Advise and represent clients in courts, before government agencies, and in private legal matters.
- Communicate with their clients, colleagues, judges, and others involved in the case.
- Conduct research and analysis of legal problems.
- Interpret laws, rulings, and regulations for individuals and businesses.
Whether you are a plaintiff, a defendant, or a witness, the best thing you can do in any legal dispute is be rigorously honest.What unethical things do lawyers do? ›
- Failing to show up for meetings.
- Using foul or crass language.
- Making important decisions about your case without your input.
- Missing deadlines.
- Filing paperwork incorrectly.
- Failing to disclose conflicts of interest.
- Continuing to work on your case when there is a known conflict of interest.
Attorney misconduct may include: conflict of interest, overbilling, refusing to represent a client for political or professional motives, false or misleading statements, knowingly accepting worthless lawsuits, hiding evidence, abandoning a client, failing to disclose all relevant facts, arguing a position while ...What is an unethical lawyer called? ›
shyster. noununscrupulous lawyer; swindler.How do you impress a judge in court? ›
- Know the judge.
- Be organized with your paperwork.
- Dress Appropriately.
- Stay calm in front of the jury.
- Keep eye contact with the jury.
- Don't be late to court.
Whatever the reason for being at court, you must convince the judge or magistrate that he or she should rule in your favor. This is done by providing sufficient documentary evidence and witness testimony. There are different standards of proof for various types of cases.What colors are best to wear to court? ›
The best colors to wear to court are conservative colors (e.g., white, light or dark gray, navy, dark blue, etc.) and avoid bright and loud colors. Make sure the color of your belt matches the color of your dress shoes.How do you answer questions without incriminating yourself? ›
Remember, no matter what happens, even if the officer says you are being detained or arrested, you don't have to answer any questions. Simply say that you wish to exercise your right to remain silent and say nothing more. If pushed to talk, repeat the same answer.What is the best evidence rule? ›
The best evidence rule is a legal principle that holds an original copy of a document as superior evidence. The rule specifies that secondary evidence, such as a copy or facsimile, will be not admissible if an original document exists and can be obtained.Can a lawyer ask a yes or no question? ›
If an attorney demands a “yes” or “no” answer and you can not give one, let the judge know that, and explain that to do so would be misleading to the court or inaccurate. If your answer was not correctly stated, correct it immediately.What are the 3 types of objection? ›
- Product objection.
- Source objection.
- Price objection.
- Money objection.
- “I'm already satisfied” objection.
- “I have to think about it” objection.
Your lawyer may deliberately delay a settlement in order to procure evidence that can increase the value of the case. That evidence can show the extent of your losses or who was responsible for the accident.
Primary tabs. Badgering the witness is an objection that counsel can make during a cross-examination of a witness where opposing counsel becomes hostile or asks argumentative questions.Do defendants tell their lawyers the truth? ›
A client should always feel comfortable telling their attorney the whole truth of the matter for which they are being represented. Any communications that take place with the purpose of securing assistance in a legal proceeding, legal services, or securing a legal opinion are protected.Can a lawyer represent someone they know personally? ›
Often because they know me and trust me, or they trust someone who knows me and recommends me. Some people are hesitant knowing our personal relationship or that I overlap in community circles with them and/or their spouse. In short, we can represent people we know personally, and I'm not hesitant to represent them.Can lawyers drop clients if they are guilty? ›
A lawyer can drop a client for any reason at all. Sometimes they need the court's permission to withdraw from a case in which they have entered an appearance. Because if the state doesn't have to prove that guilty people are guilty, they also don't have to prove that innocent people are.Can a lawyer go against their clients wishes? ›
When an attorney ignores their client's wishes, this is considered legal malpractice in many cases. For example, when an attorney ignores their client's wishes and decides to settle their client's claim without their permission, this is considered legal malpractice.What happens if a lawyer finds out his client is lying? ›
When a lawyer has actual knowledge that a client has committed perjury or submitted false evidence, the lawyer's first duty is to remonstrate with the client in an effort to convince the client to voluntarily correct the perjured testimony or false evidence.Can lawyers be deceitful? ›
Share: Everyone knows that lawyers are not allowed to lie — to clients, courts or third parties. But once you get beyond deliberate false statements, the scope of the obligations to truth and integrity become less clear.What not to tell your lawyer? ›
- My case will be easy money for you. ...
- I have already done the work for you. ...
- I forgot I had an appointment. ...
- I've already talked to a lot of other lawyers. ...
- I don't have all my documents.
Misrepresentation.  A lawyer is required to be truthful when dealing with others on a client's behalf, but generally has no affirmative duty to inform an opposing party of relevant facts. A misrepresentation can occur if the lawyer incorporates or affirms a statement of another person that the lawyer knows is false.What are the exceptions to attorney client privilege? ›
- Death of a Client. ...
- Fiduciary Duty. ...
- Crime or Fraud Exception. ...
- Common Interest Exception.
Being honest with your attorney is crucial to your case. Because of attorney-client privilege, anything you say to your attorney will stay between the two of you. Some things might be hard to admit to yourself, let alone someone else, but being dishonest with your lawyer will not only hurt you but also them.Should you tell your lawyer everything? ›
You should be honest with your lawyer
Telling your lawyer the truth and disclosing important facts that can affect your case is important. This is especially true in criminal cases. If you withhold information from your lawyer, it can jeopardize your case.
From Law and Order (and all of its versions) to Suits and all the way to How to Get away with Murder, shows centered around defense attorneys abound. While many of these shows are highly entertaining to watch, the reality is that most legal dramas (and movies) flagrantly misrepresent the legal profession.What happens if privileged information is voluntarily disclosed to a third party? ›
The privilege shields from discovery advice given by the attorney to the client as well as communications from the client to the attorney. Voluntary disclosure of privileged communications to a third party results in waiver of the attorney-client privilege unless an exception applies.What is the difference between confidentiality and attorney-client privilege? ›
Attorney-client privilege is about the communications between the attorney and the client, whereas attorney-client confidentiality is about case information obtained in the course of representing the client. All privileged information is confidential, but not all confidential information is privileged.Can lawyers talk about their cases? ›
Under attorney-client privilege, lawyers are not allowed to divulge the details of anything their clients tell them in a court of law. In addition to that, The Duty of Confidentiality protects clients from having their lawyers casually discuss the private details of their case outside of court.What happens to privileged information if it is inadvertently disclosed during the course of a lawsuit? ›
The privilege can be waived
The concern is that the privilege might be waived, that is, by disclosing the information the material is no longer privileged and may be used against the party in court.
The privilege extends only to communications that the client intends to be confidential. Communications made in non-private settings, or in the presence of third persons unnecessary to accomplish the purpose for which the attorney was consulted, are not confidential and are not protected by the privilege.How do you lose attorney-client privilege? ›
If you share the communication with a third party – for example, by forwarding an email to someone outside of your business – you can lose the protection of attorney-client privilege.Can an attorney reveal information shared by a client confidentiality? ›
There are circumstances, however, when a lawyer may reveal “Confidential Information.” Such circumstances include situations where: (1) the client provides “informed consent” (a term defined in the Rules); or (2) the disclosure is impliedly authorized in order for the lawyer to represent the client.
Some of the most common exceptions to the privilege include: Death of a Client. The privilege may be breached upon the death of a testator-client if litigation ensues between the decedent's heirs, legatees or other parties claiming under the deceased client.Are emails between attorney and client privileged? ›
The attorney-client privilege is a type of privileged communication that is recognized by law and protects certain confidential communications between a lawyer and a client from being included in a discovery process.How strong is attorney-client privilege? ›
You can freely admit to your lawyer that you committed a crime, and the attorney-client privilege will protect that conversation. But if your conversations with your attorney are for planning or furthering an ongoing crime or fraud, or one that hasn't happened yet, the attorney-client privilege doesn't apply.What is a violation of the rule 2 100? ›
(A) While representing a client, a member shall not communicate directly or indirectly about the subject of the representation with a party the member knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the member has the consent of the other lawyer.Do lawyers have to listen to their clients? ›
Lawyer-client communication is essential to the success of any legal case. By taking the time to listen accurately to their clients, lawyers can better understand the situation and provide better representation.Can a lawyer defend someone they know personally? ›
A criminal lawyer can defend someone they know is guilty as long as they do not lie or knowingly mislead the court.What is Rule 502? ›
Recently enacted Federal Rule of Evidence 502 “adopts a national standard that an inadvertent disclosure of privileged information does not waive the privilege if the holder of the privilege took reasonable steps to prevent disclosure and rectify the error.” Rhoads Industries, Inc.What is the Federal Rule 503? ›
In a criminal case, a client has a privilege to prevent a lawyer or lawyer's representative from disclosing any other fact that came to the knowledge of the lawyer or the lawyer's representative by reason of the attorney-client relationship.What happens when attorney-client privilege is broken? ›
Penalties for Violating Attorney-Client Privilege
If your attorney violates your confidentiality, they will face professional discipline with the possible penalty of disbarment.