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.
lawyer-client relationship of trust and prevents a lawyer from revealing the client's information even when not subjected to such compulsion. Thus, a lawyer may not reveal such information except with the informed consent* of the client or as authorized or required by the State Bar Act, these rules, or other law.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.
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.Do lawyers have to keep everything a secret? ›
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 sue someone for telling your secret? ›
Your reputation, career, and home life could be in peril when someone spreads false and damaging information about you or your business. However, nobody has the right to ruin your reputation carelessly or maliciously. If you have been the victim of slander and incurred damages as a result, you could sue for defamation.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.What is the most common complaint against lawyers? ›
- Lack of communication.
- Scope of representation.
- Fee disputes/Excessive fees.
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.What happens if you tell your lawyer the truth? ›
The attorney-client privilege law protects you
In fact, there are some things that you can confess to your lawyer without worry. For example, if you have committed a crime in the past, and you tell your lawyer about it, your lawyer can't be forced to testify against you in court.
It is the kind of information that the client may wish to share with anyone – even their lawyer. The truth is this – a lawyer, any lawyer handling any important legal matter must have all of the facts and evidence in the case to do their job.
At the same time, it is vital that the attorney be accessible and empathetic to the concerns of the client. Ultimately, the client does have to follow the professional advice of their attorney on case strategy. If the attorney and client cannot stay on the same page, the results can become disastrous.Can lawyers tell on you? ›
As long as the communication occurred for the purpose of securing a legal opinion, legal services, or assistance in some legal proceeding, an attorney cannot inform on her client. So a criminal defense attorney cannot reveal what her client told her to law enforcement or the court.
If someone listens to your lawyer's confidential communications without your consent (e.g., overhearing, illegal wiretapping), the eavesdropper is legally forbidden from divulging that personal information. That testimony will be inadmissible in court if they do so, but the eavesdropper may even face criminal charges.What is protected by attorney-client privilege? ›
The privilege covers written and oral communications and protects both individual and institutional clients. The privilege extends from the attorney to include legal office staff that facilitates communications to and from the attorney.Can I sue someone for gossiping about me? ›
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.Can you sue someone for spreading lies 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.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.Do lawyers ask their clients if they are guilty? ›
Due to these reasons, it is likely that the defense lawyer does not ask their client whether or not they actually committed the crime. Rather, a good lawyer uses facts to put on the best defense possible and leaves the question of guilt to the judge.What is unethical attorney? ›
It refers to an attorney who aggressively and unscrupulously pursues accident victims. Directly soliciting accident victims or having a legal assistant or other employee do so is widely considered unethical because the injured person is in a vulnerable state. Attorneys should not have to come to you to gain business.What is unethical for a lawyer? ›
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 ...
Professional misconduct is the most common reason for attorney discipline. Lawyers can also be disciplined for conduct in their personal lives.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.
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.Is it better to be honest in court? ›
Whether you are a plaintiff, a defendant, or a witness, the best thing you can do in any legal dispute is be rigorously honest.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.
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.Can your words be used against you in court? ›
The following is the standard Miranda warning: "You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to speak to an attorney, and to have an attorney present during any questioning.How often should I be hearing from my lawyer? ›
There is no set formula for how often you will hear from your attorney. However, the key to a successful attorney client relationship is communication. Whenever there is an important occurrence in your case you will be contacted or notified.Does a lawyer read a lot? ›
To some people, this might seem counterintuitive. As lawyers, we read all day. Sometimes hundreds of pages each day.How quickly should your attorney respond? ›
In addition, you should also expect your attorney to call you back or return your emails promptly. If your attorney does not respond within one business day, they should tell you why they could not answer your question (this can include a heavy caseload or your lawyer being in court for a trial).
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. Fiduciary Duty.Is it ever OK to break attorney-client privilege? ›
Most states will permit an attorney to break a confidentiality agreement if someone is in danger. If the information has to do with a past crime, it is most likely privileged. The same is true if the client is merely speculating about a possible future intent.Can an attorney decline a client? ›
A lawyer may decline a client's case if there is a conflict of interest, such as when you agree to represent another party in the same case. In some situations, you may deny a case if it involves someone with whom you have a personal or professional relationship.What is the rule 3 100 confidential information of a client? ›
(A) A member shall not reveal information protected from disclosure by Business and Professions Code section 6068, subdivision (e)(1) without the informed consent of the client, or as provided in paragraph (B) of this rule.What is the Evidence Code 912? ›
Ev C § 912 clearly provides that it is the holder of the privilege who may waive the privilege, either by disclosing a significant part of the communication in question or by manifesting through words or conduct consent that the communication may be disclosed by another.What is the Evidence Code 950? ›
Code, § 950 et seq. The California Evidence Code provides that a client can refuse to share and prevent another from divulging confidential communication between the client and lawyer unless an exception applies.What are the rules of confidentiality? ›
In law, confidentiality is a legal term that refers to the duty of an individual to refrain from sharing confidential information with others without the express consent of the other party.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 are the exceptions to the duty of confidentiality? ›
Most of the mandatory exceptions to confidentiality are well known and understood. They include reporting child, elder and dependent adult abuse, and the so-called "duty to protect." However, there are other, lesserknown exceptions also required by law.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.
- Limits Imposed Voluntarily (i.e., Not Legally Required) ...
- Limits That Can Be Imposed by Law (i.e., Possible “Involuntary” Disclosures) ...
- Possible Limitations on Confidentiality Created by Use of Technology in the Setting.
A breach of confidentiality, or violation of confidentiality, is the unauthorized disclosure of confidential information. It may happen in writing, orally, or during an informal meeting between the parties.What violates confidentiality? ›
A breach of confidentiality happens when data or information that was provided in confidence is disclosed to a third party without the owner's consent.What type of information Cannot be kept confidential by the attorney-client privilege? ›
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.What does confidential information will not be disclosed? ›
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) is a legally binding contract that establishes a confidential relationship. The party or parties signing the agreement agree that sensitive information they may obtain will not be made available to any others.When can confidentiality be breached? ›
Murder, manslaughter, rape, treason, kidnapping, child abuse or other cases where individuals have suffered serious harm may all warrant breaching confidentiality.What are the 5 exceptions to the non disclosure requirements? ›
- a. When the information is public knowledge: ...
- b. When the recipient receives information from a third party. ...
- c. When the information is required to be disclosed by any lawful authority. ...
- d. The information is known to the recipient before signing the NDA (non-disclosure agreement)
Duty of Confidentiality
A fiduciary must maintain the confidentiality of all information relating to the beneficiary. They must not use any form of it, whether written or spoken, for their personal gain.
The attorney-client privilege is, strictly speaking, a rule of evidence. It prevents lawyers from testifying about, and from being forced to testify about, their clients' statements. Independent of that privilege, lawyers also owe their clients a duty of confidentiality.
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.