The relationship between a lawyer and, by extension, the law firm, with the client must be based entirely upon trust and clear, open and honest communication. From the initiation of the first client contact with the lawyer, establishing trust, openness and honesty are critical to maintain the relationship and fully advocating the client’s position.
Clients or potential clients may withhold information out of a lack of trust. The openness and honesty of the lawyer client relationship suffers. At times, clients feel that if they do not tell their lawyer about evidence that is harmful to their case, “no one will find out about it.”
Every case has some elements that are not as strong as others. Even superior cases carry negative evidence, potentially harmful witness testimony or documents that may be interpreted in a manner very damaging to even the strongest case.
Since the likelihood is strong that the opposing counsel may discover evidence which is helpful to his or her case, but detrimental to the secretive client, it may be that the client’s attorney will only discover the harmful evidence when either it is too late to do anything about it, or the lawyer will only learn of the information when it is released by the other side in its most damaging form.
In order to prevent this scenario, with damaging evidence first introduced to the jury or the judge or presented in the most devastating manner possible, both the client and the lawyer must be totally honest with one another, disclosing information within a relationship built on trust and mutual respect.
The best method for diffusing harmful evidence, difficult circumstances or anticipated negative testimony from witnesses, is to address the evidence in your case, as opposed to hoping your opponent does not discover the evidence or, if opposing counsel does reveal negative facts or witnesses, trying desperately to minimize the damage.
If the client freely discloses what may be damaging to his or her case, and discusses the evidence openly and honestly, the attorney may be able to evaluate the case more precisely, taking into account the potential detriment of the evidence. If it is decided that the case should be pursued, regardless of potential pit-falls, the superior method for addressing the harmful evidence is to disclose it first, and early on.
An anticipated detrimental witness or otherwise damaging document may be diffused before the judge or jury by revealing the information, before the opposing counsel uses the evidence for maximum detrimental effect. This way, the timing, manner and method for disclosing and addressing harmful evidence may be controlled, and the negative aspects of the evidence potentially diffused.
Honesty, trust, full disclosure and mutual respect between the client and the attorney are critical in order to obtain the best result possible on any litigated matter.