Why did you hire a lawyer?

James R. Becker, Jr.

December 18, 2017

There are a lot of reasons why a person becomes a lawyer.  However, at its most base level, every good lawyer became a lawyer for the same reason - to help people.  However, no matter how good or skilled or clever the lawyer, ultimately the only thing that will help our client is that client.  Which leads to the question which is the title of this article, if the client is the only person who can help, then why do would anyone hire a lawyer?  The answer is simple - guidance.  As a lawyer, we provide the guidance to our client through difficult situations, but we do not actually do the things those things that need to be done.  Let me give an example to help clarify.

We recently had a client who came to us in a bad situation.  The client had failed a drug test, there were allegations of domestic violence and other bad conduct by our client and our client had not been handling his (or her - no sense being sexist) obligations.  The first piece of advice to the client is that the situation is bad, but there are things we can do help remedy the situation.  You start with acknowledging the problems with your side of the situation and work to fix them.  In this case, it was show a clean drug test, attend anger management classes and handle the client's obligations.  These would demonstrate to the court that you know you aren't perfect, but want to get better and want to provide for your children.  Proof of an issue is important, but this sort of perception repair is invaluable.  The next issue was for us to gather proof that the allegations were overstated.  This we did.  However, the client never did the other part and so the case went to trial.  While it was not the case we wanted to present, it was the case that our client gave us.

The outcome was predictably bad for both sides.  While we had the proof to show that the allegations were overstated and the other side was not blameless, our client had not done the work we advised in order to obtain a better result.  The bottom line is that you hire a lawyer to give you advice on how to handle your situation and you hire a lawyer to represent and speak for you in court.  Neither one of these exists in a vaccuum.  If you do not follow your lawyer's advice, you cannot expect to get the best possible result from your lawyer.