What You Get to Decide as Attorney

November 24, 2015 § 3 Comments

Every now and then a lawyer will shrug his shoulders and say, “I filed it because that’s what my client told me to do.” Or, “I didn’t want that language in the agreement, Judge, but the client insisted.”

Things like that make me scratch my head and wonder what are today’s boundary lines between the lawyer’s authority and the client’s decision-making realm.

This article by Megan Zavieh on Lawyerist entitled Who Decides What in the Attorney-Client Relationship offers some helpful guidance.

I noticed that she specifically stated that, although the client gets to determine the goal, the attorney gets to decide the means. What happens, though, when the client’s objective is to drag out the litigation as long as possible with frivolous and vexatious motions, unnecessary and unnecessarily voluminous discovery, and to run up the cost to the opposing party to bleed them dry? Or what if the client’s sole objective is revenge by disclosing embarrassing information on the very periphery of relevance? These can be some tough choices for the attorney, especially when the client is willing to pay. How much of your reputation are you willing to spend for that fee?

When I represented clients, I made it clear that I would make the decisions about strategy and tactics, and I didn’t need the client’s helpful guidance in how to do that. In that way, I made sure that I was doing what I felt was ethical and was zealous representation within the bounds of the law. When clients, untrained in and unencumbered by ethical rules, begin calling those shots, you can find yourself in big trouble.   

§ 3 Responses to What You Get to Decide as Attorney

  • […] Primeaux had this post last week titled “What You Get to Decide as Attorney.” The post examined who gets to […]

  • thusbloggedanderson says:

    This can get particularly annoying when the client is a company that employs its own lawyers (or outside counsel) to ride herd on one’s handling of a case. Lawyers from out of state whose name won’t be on the pleadings can get downright cocky about what a Rambo one ought to be in a court they’ll never set foot in.

  • Ben Conner (MsBaar 6465) says:

    Bravo, Judge. We regret the demise of professionalism in every corner. Sometimes, we have to refuse to do what we are asked to do. Refuse it without excuse. If a client moves on, well then, it was better for that client to move on.

    It’s the punch line of an old joke, but so true
    There’s just some things a pig won’t do.

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