14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (2023)

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    14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (1)Lauren CahnUpdated: Mar. 31, 2021

      Got a dispute? A divorce? A potentially lucrative deal? Read these insider tips before you think about calling a lawyer.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (2)Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (3)FabrikaSimf/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (4)Billion Photos/Shutterstock

      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.”

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (5)kan_chana/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (6)Nirat.pix/Shutterstock

      “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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (7)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,”

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (8)igorstevanovic/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (9)Stokkete/Shutterstock

      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.”

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (10)TaLaNoVa/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (11)Pressmaster/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (12)maradon 333/Shutterstock

      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (13)isak55/Shutterstock

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      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.

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (14)Freedomz/Shutterstock

      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.”

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      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (15)Andrey_Popov/Shutterstock

      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.”

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      Originally Published: November 20, 2018

      14 Secrets Lawyers Will Never Tell You (16)

      Lauren Cahn is a New York-based writer whose work has appeared regularly on Reader's Digest, The Huffington Post, and 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; 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.

      FAQs

      Do lawyers twist the truth? ›

      While it is true that defense lawyers occasionally distort the truth, it is also true that prosecutors are equally guilty of sometimes misrepresenting the truth to win a case. Most defense and prosecutorial misconduct is an unfortunate byproduct of the adversarial process.

      Why do lawyers never answer the phone? ›

      This is how the practice of law is supposed to work. So often when a lawyer does not return your call for a few days it may simply mean your lawyer is busy getting some important work done in your case or in another client's case. There is nothing going on with your case.

      Are lawyers bound to tell the truth? ›

      Lawyers must be honest, but they do not have to be truthful. A criminal defense lawyer, for example, in zealously defending a client, has no obligation to actively present the truth. Counsel may not deliberately mislead the court, but has no obligation to tell the defendant's whole story.

      What is the most common complaint against lawyers? ›

      Perhaps the most common kinds of complaints against lawyers involve delay or neglect. This doesn't mean that occasionally you've had to wait for a phone call to be returned. It means there has been a pattern of the lawyer's failing to respond or to take action over a period of months.

      Why do lawyers drag out cases? ›

      Their goal is to drag the case on and pay out as little as possible. This earns more money for the attorney, who gets paid by the hour, and also can help frustrate the plaintiff into making a better settlement for them out of desperation.

      What kind of language do lawyers use? ›

      Legalese refers to contract language that lawyers use. This legal terminology or legal-speak typically refers to words like “henceforth” and “stipulation”. Essentially, legalese is lawyers' lingo that may be difficult for people outside of the industry to understand.

      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 ...

      What is it called when a lawyer doesn't do his job? ›

      Legal malpractice is a type of negligence in which a lawyer does harm to his or her client. Typically, this concerns lawyers acting in their own interests, lawyers breaching their contract with the client, and, one of the most common cases of legal malpractice, is when lawyers fail to act on time for clients.

      Why do lawyers ignore you? ›

      There's bad news your attorney doesn't want to deliver. If your attorney is not experienced or efficient, they may have missed a deadline or made another mistake and aren't willing to confess their error. There could also be some bad news that is entirely outside of the attorney's control.

      What to do if your lawyer is not helping you? ›

      You can complete a complaint form online or download a PDF complaint form from the State Bar's website. You may also call the State Bar at 800-843-9053 (in California) or 213-765-1200 (outside California) to discuss the complaint-filing process.

      How long should it take for a lawyer to get back to you? ›

      Your Lawyer Is Busy with Other Cases

      Even if your lawyer is working on another case, they should still get back to you within a day or two at the most. Your lawyer owes you responsive communication, even if you're not their only client. There's no excuse for an attorney who takes weeks to return calls or emails.

      Do lawyers ask if you did it? ›

      Some lawyers will ask, some will not, and some don't want to know. Many people believe that if they “confess that they did it,” their attorney won't try to represent them anymore, or not give them a good defense. You should be honest with your criminal defense attorney.

      Do criminals tell lawyers the truth? ›

      Different attorneys have different opinions on what they want their clients to tell them about the case. Most (but not all) criminal defense attorneys want their clients to tell them everything—the good, the bad, and the ugly—because an attorney cannot defend against what he or she does not know.

      Can a lawyer drop a client? ›

      They cannot just drop out and leave the client in the lurch. If a solicitor wishes to sack a client they must write to the client first stating why, what the client must do if they do not want to be sacked and providing a deadline to do this by.

      How do you deal with rude lawyers? ›

      8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Opposing Counsel
      1. Point out Common Ground. ...
      2. Don't be Afraid to Ask Why. ...
      3. Separate the Person from the Problem. ...
      4. Focus on your Interests. ...
      5. Don't Fall for your Assumptions. ...
      6. Take a Calculated Approach. ...
      7. Control the Conversation by Reframing. ...
      8. Pick up the Phone.

      How do you debar a lawyer? ›

      Causes of disbarment may include: a felony involving moral turpitude, forgery, fraud, a history of dishonesty, consistent lack of attention to clients, alcoholism or drug abuse which affect the attorney's ability to practice, theft of funds, or any pattern of violation of the professional code of ethics.

      How do lawyers get disciplined? ›

      [1] Lawyers are subject to discipline when they violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so or do so through the acts of another, as when they request or instruct an agent to do so on the lawyer's behalf.

      Can you confess to your lawyer? ›

      The rules do not prohibit lawyers from representing clients who admit their guilt to their lawyer; however, lawyers are strictly prohibited from lying or knowingly mislead the court on their client's behalf.

      What questions can you refuse to answer in a deposition? ›

      You have a right to refuse any questions about a person's health, sexuality, or religious beliefs (including your own). The opposing attorney will have to explain how your answer has a direct bearing on the case in order to compel you to answer. Privileged information.

      How often should I hear from my attorney? ›

      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.

      Is everything you say to a lawyer confidential? ›

      The confidentiality rule, for example, applies not only to matters communicated in confidence by the client but also to all information relating to the representation, whatever its source. A lawyer may not disclose such information except as authorized or required by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

      What do you say when talking to a lawyer? ›

      Tips for Talking to an Attorney
      1. Always be as honest and candid as possible about the facts of your case. ...
      2. Ask questions if you don't understand something that your attorney mentions or explains to you.
      3. Approach an attorney about your case as soon as you think you may need one.
      Aug 4, 2015

      Should you be honest with your lawyer? ›

      The best strategy for someone facing criminal charges is to follow the lead of an experienced, trusted criminal defense lawyer, and no matter, to be truthful with that lawyer. An attorney who has your best interests in mind will advise you regarding the possibilities and your best course of action.

      How do you deal with rude lawyers? ›

      8 Tips for Dealing with Difficult Opposing Counsel
      1. Point out Common Ground. ...
      2. Don't be Afraid to Ask Why. ...
      3. Separate the Person from the Problem. ...
      4. Focus on your Interests. ...
      5. Don't Fall for your Assumptions. ...
      6. Take a Calculated Approach. ...
      7. Control the Conversation by Reframing. ...
      8. Pick up the Phone.

      Can lawyers tell you what to say? ›

      Most, but not necessarily all, of what you tell your lawyer is privileged. The attorney-client privilege is a rule that protects the confidentiality of communications between lawyers and clients. Under the rule, attorneys may not divulge their clients' secrets, nor may others force them to.

      Can you confess to your lawyer? ›

      The rules do not prohibit lawyers from representing clients who admit their guilt to their lawyer; however, lawyers are strictly prohibited from lying or knowingly mislead the court on their client's behalf.

      Do lawyers talk to each other? ›

      In representing a client, a lawyer shall not communicate about the subject of the representation with a person the lawyer knows to be represented by another lawyer in the matter, unless the lawyer has the consent of the other lawyer or is authorized to do so by law or a court order.

      What to do if your lawyer is not helping you? ›

      You can complete a complaint form online or download a PDF complaint form from the State Bar's website. You may also call the State Bar at 800-843-9053 (in California) or 213-765-1200 (outside California) to discuss the complaint-filing process.

      How do you converse with a lawyer? ›

      13. Talking to a Lawyer
      1. A: What can I help you with? B: I need to hire you. A: What do you need me for? B: I need you for my court date. A: What kind of case do you have? ...
      2. A: How may I help you? B: I would like you to be my lawyer. A: What can I do for you? B: I'm going on trial. A: What is your trial about?

      How often should I hear from my attorney? ›

      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.

      How do lawyers defend someone they know is guilty? ›

      Criminal defense lawyers must provide "zealous" representation. Another reason that lawyers can defend people regardless of guilt is that our society gives each citizen the right to be vigorously defended in a court of law. The U.S. Constitution assures every citizen due process and the right to legal counsel.

      Can lawyers refuse to defend someone? ›

      Can Lawyers Refuse to Defend Someone? Lawyers can refuse to defend someone unless a court refuses to grant them leave to withdraw from the matter. Common reasons why a criminal lawyer would not defend someone are if there is a conflict of interest (eg.

      Why do lawyers ignore you? ›

      There's bad news your attorney doesn't want to deliver. If your attorney is not experienced or efficient, they may have missed a deadline or made another mistake and aren't willing to confess their error. There could also be some bad news that is entirely outside of the attorney's control.

      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 ...

      How do you annoy opposing counsel? ›

      Five More Ways to Irritate Opposing Counsel
      1. Being a Technophobe. Yeah, old-timer. ...
      2. Not Returning Calls. This goes without saying: pick up the dang phone and return a call. ...
      3. Abusive Discovery Dump. We asked for credit card statements. ...
      4. Inflexibility. ...
      5. General Hard*** (Catch-All)
      Mar 1, 2013

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