By DFW Criminal Defense Lawyer Jeremy Rosenthal
Your lawyer can absolutely never lie to you. Texas Rule of Professional Conduct 8.04(a)(3) says a lawyer cannot, “engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.” If your lawyer has lied to you then they’ve broken this rule.
The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct is modeled off of other national and state model rules — and I’d be surprised if any other State didn’t have similar honesty or candor requirements.
Instances Where Disciplinary Rules Require Honesty in Specific Situations:
- A client is entitled to straightforward advice expressing the lawyer’s honest assessment. Rule 2.01, Comment 1.
- A lawyer is required to give an honest opinion about the actual consequences which appear likely to result from a client’s conduct – particularly in regard to potential future criminal actions of a client. Rule 1.02, Comment 7.
- A lawyer cannot make a legal argument based on a knowingly false representation of law. Rule 3.03, Comment 3.
- A lawyer should deal with a non-adjudicative proceeding honestly as if it were a courtroom setting. Rule 3.10, Comment 1.
- Lawyers are required to report professional misconduct which raise questions as to other lawyer’s honesty, trustworthiness or fitness to practice law. Rule 8.03(a).
And there are even more examples in the rules. As you can see – lawyers have honesty and integrity drilled into their heads in law school and after.
Honesty, Tactfulness and “Bedside Manners”
The attorney-client relationship is also founded upon trust. Folks who come to my office have to trust me. Part of developing that trust is showing basic decency and honesty. If I agreed with every single thing a prospective client told me as far as their opinions, views and concerns about potential outcomes – they’d probably smell a rat. They know I’m being honest when I dig deeper into their issue which often involves correcting a misimpression they may have about something.
What many lawyers struggle with is not honesty but tact. Tact is the ability to deal with others on sensitive issues. “Bedside manners” is another term for tactfulness in my view — referring to a doctor’s ability to deliver bad news in a constructive, compassionate and more meaningful way than just flinging it at the patient.
I’ve spoken with many people over the years who want to ditch their lawyer because their lawyer made them panic unnecessarily. I always hate hearing that and I often do my best to steer the client back to that lawyer give them another chance.
I’ve learned many lessons over the years about how to constructively deliver news or thoughts my client might not want to hear. My hope is even though the news may not be the best – it can at least help fortify the attorney-client relationship I have with my client.
There is just no room for it in legal representation. It degrades the attorney-client relationship and sets up unrealistic expectations which usually don’t get met.
*Jeremy Rosenthal is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is currently designated as a Super Lawyer by Thomson Reuters.