The Attorney Client Relationship
The attorney client relationship begins when someone consults a lawyer about their legal issues. I’m going to refer specifically to this relationship in the area of criminal law. The attorney client relationship, and its protections under the law, have existed for centuries. This relationship is included in the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct for Lawyers, The Texas Rules of Evidence, and many other areas of the law. The bottom line is that the legal system wants to encourage people to consult with lawyers before, during, and after their legal issues come up. Personally, my number one goal, right off the bat, when dealing with a client is to set expectiations. I want to set my client’s expectations of me, and what I can and will expect from them. What is the attorney client relationship all about?
The Attorney Client Privilege
What is it? Honesty and openness. Those two things, like any other relationship, is what the attorney client relationship is founded upon. I couldn’t sit here and write about the attorney client relationship without mentioning the attorney client privilege. The attorney client privilege is at the heart of the relationship. One of my biggest expectations of my clients is for them to be open and honest with me regarding their past criminal history and the current case that I’m working on. This privilege exists to protect lawyers and their clients. At its core, it protects communications between a lawyer and their client when discussing issues regarding the client’s case. Whether you hire me or not, the privilege protects anything we’ve talked about during our consultation. Communication between a client and their lawyer, regarding the case, are privileged and confidential. The privilege prevents me from being forced to testify against my clients about things that they have told me. No one can order me to testify against you. This protection applies so long as the crime committed was in the past, is not ongoing, or that there will be no future crime committed. Rules of evidence prohibit a lawyer from being called to testify against his/her client under almost all circumstances. Privilege is a higher level of legal protection than confidentiality.
What Do I Expect From My Clients? And Them From Me?
All legal theories, professional rules, and law aside, I have certain expectations from all of my clients. Like I said before, I want them all to be open and honest with me about their past criminal histories and their current case. I can’t be forced to testify against you. So if that was or is your fear, then there – It’s gone! I’d much rather have you be more open and honest than hold information back. I’m not sitting here judging you, or your past. I’ve heard a lot of terrible facts in cases before. You won’t shock me, I promise.
Very often I ask clients about their criminal records (arrests included so this means any time handcuffs have been placed on your wrists by police) and they will say “they have no record.” If this is true, that’s fine. It makes my job a lot easier for you. However, if this is not true, and I have to find out later, then you started our relationship out on a lie. A huge part of my ability to represent you as good as I possibly can depends on you being upfront and honest with me. FULL DISCLOSURE. Period. If I’m working under the assumption that you have no priors, and you do, then it makes everything much more difficult. A perfect example of this is when I’m talking to a prosecutor or a Judge. If you have priors that you didn’t tell me about, and the prosecutor or Judge knows about them, it makes me look like I’m either not telling the truth, or I’m a fool. It will make me lose credibility with the prosecutor and the Judge. It will show that you and I are not on the same page. If we’re not on the same page, then how am I supposed to help you to the best of my ability?
The attorney client relationship is built on honest and openness. The attorney client privilege has been recognized by the law for centuries. This privilege protects any communications between you and I about your case. This means phone calls, emails, text messages, faxes, video meetings etc… Basically, if it’s you and I communicating about your case, then we’re covered! Keep this in mind when going into other lawyers’ offices or sitting through consultation appointments. Be open and honest with your lawyer about your criminal case and your criminal past. I promise it will lead to a better attorney client relationship and to a better outcome in your case.