Most people do not have to speak with an attorney on a daily basis. Some people find it intimidating to speak with a lawyer under any circumstances. Others only need to communicate with attorneys during extremely stressful times in their lives such as a divorce, in the aftermath of a death or serious injury, or when a loved one is facing criminal charges. Needless to say, these are some of the most taxing experiences a person can face and when the added confusion of legal jargon is added to the mix it can be very difficult to know what to expect. The following is a basic description of what you can expect when speaking to a lawyer, like a Decatur criminal attorney.
There is such a thing as attorney/client privilege. Generally speaking, it is a privacy interest protected by statutory law that allows communication between a person and their attorney to remain private. The whole point of the attorney/client privilege is to encourage free and open communication between the person seeking legal advice and their legal counsel. In other words, be honest with your attorney. An attorney needs to know the good the bad and the ugly about what happened so they are not surprised in court. A bad fact can become ten times worse if an attorney hears it for the very first time in front of a judge or jury and has had no time to prepare.
There is typically one big exception to the attorney/client privilege and that relates to ongoing crimes. For example, if you meet with an attorney and tell them that you are in the process of committing a serious crime (i.e., “My name is John Jones. I live a 555 East Forest Drive and I currently have someone locked up against their will in my basement.”), the attorney has a duty to report the ongoing crime.
Also keep in mind that communication is a two-way street. Once you have been open and honest with your attorney and explained your circumstances to the best of your ability, then take a moment and actually listen to the legal advice your attorney is giving you. That is, after all, what you are paying them for. An attorney has a duty to communicate with you about your options in your case.
Most attorneys will, especially when asked, lay out several options regarding how to proceed with your case including the pros and cons of each option. It is then up to the client to ask as many questions as they need to feel completely informed. A good attorney will make some attempt to break down difficult legal concept into simple terms so that their client can understand what is going on. However, don’t get frustrated if you don’t understand everything right away, the law can be very complex. Stick with it and continue to ask questions. The questions you ask can be helpful to you making a decision that will affect your future. Also, the more questions you ask, the more opportunities your lawyer will have to understand what your goals are in your case and what is important to you.
There is nothing more frustrating to an attorney than when their client ignores thoughtful legal advice and ends up hurting their own case. With that said, it is most often the client and not the attorney who will have to live with the consequences of a decision. So, while an attorney can give their advice and counsel and even push very strongly towards one option that they think is the best, the toughest decision are usually going to be made by the client. In criminal cases this absolute right of decision making applies to whether to plead guilty to a charge and whether to testify at trial. In these scenarios an attorney can offer his or her advice, but the ultimate choice is up to the defendant to make. In circumstances like these, the people who are most satisfied with the outcomes of their decisions are often the same people who have the best communication with their lawyer.
Credit to our contributors from Andrew R. Lynch, P.C. for their insight into attorney/client communications.