Our short take – no, never, please don’t, and please avoid at all costs. However, if you must be provided with more explicit reasons, please know that lying to your attorney is really a lose-lose situation.
Lying to your attorney is perhaps the most counter-productive thing you can possibly do. Your attorney is bound by a legal and ethical oath called attorney-client privilege. He or she is not going to run off to the other side and tell them what you told her in order to get you into trouble. See below.
1. You Reduce Your Ability to Succeed.
A lawyer cannot effectively represent and protect a client if the client conceals and fails to disclose crucial information that the lawyer needs to know. As in most professions, if you are not provided with the best information possible, it is very difficult to do your job. A lawyer is no different. They are not hired to judge you, but instead to defend you. No matter what you have done, chances are that your lawyer has seen or heard much worse. If you lie, your lawyer is at a disadvantage and your case may be much more difficult to win. And when your lawyer loses your case, guess who also loses?
2. Your Case Will Last Longer.
As every new fact is learned that is not disclosed at the onset of representation, your case becomes more complex. If you retain counsel going in with a, “tell him/her only what he/she NEEDS to know”, who is the person determining what the professional attorney NEEDS to know? That is right, you, the person who finds themselves in the predicament of needing an attorney in the first place. Rather, you are better off telling your attorney everything as early on in the case as possible, letting them discern what is important and what is not. Furthermore, what needs to be explored or used immediately, or what can be held in reserve until a more strategic time.
3. You Cannot Effective Negotiate.
If pertinent facts are withheld and not disclosed, it could impact your attorney’s ability to asses the “value” of your case and effectively negotiate its resolution. For example, if your attorney believes your version of the facts, which demonstrate the other side is liable for $500,000.00, and the other side is offering $100,000.00, your attorney would rightfully advise you that it is worthwhile to continue. But, if your version of the facts omits details which reduce the other side’s liability to close to what they are offering or less, those omitted details keep your attorney from being able to best represent you and secure a positive, informal result.
4. Chances Are Your Attorney Will Catch You.
Attorneys are one of few professions that are trained to investigate and uncover the “truth” and then use their talents to show that “truth” in the worst or best light, given whose side they are on. So, if you are hiding something, your attorney is probably going to find out anyway. From third party investigators, discovery, subpoenas, and depositions, your attorney is going to be using a variety of wide nets to haul in all sorts of nuggets about you, the opposition, and the facts of the case. In so doing, they will find out that you were less than transparent…
5. Deflating Your Representative’s Confidence.
… causing them to doubt what else you have told them. Yes, being less than forthright has the added negative of causing your attorney to lose confidence in you in a whole variety of ways. They lose confidence in your version of the facts, your statement about the integrity of witnesses and evidence, and, ultimately, you as a witness.
6. If Not Your Attorney, then the Other Side Will.
Heaven forbid you are good enough at lying to keep your own attorney from discovering your fibs. Then that means the other side will be able to not only get a chance at discovering the lie, but doing so in the most timely, dramatic, and beneficial way, to serve their own ends. This could be early on, in discovery or an embarrassing deposition, or reserved until you are on the stand at trial. And even if it is not proof of an outright lie, any type of deception or “mis-remembering” will attack your credibility on the witness stand before the one person’s whose job is to factor credibility of witnesses and evidence into the decision on the dispute – the judge. So, no, this would not be a good time to engage in some confession of your sins.
7. You Could Go to Prison.
Perjury. If you swear to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and then do not, you could be held in contempt of court and charged with perjury. Perjury is a felony in California law. If convicted, the person could be sentenced to up to 4 years in the California State Prison.
8. Attorneys Cannot Lie to the Judge on Your Behalf.
Whether a civil, administrative, or criminal matter, attorneys are ethically bound by the duty of candor. This duty is codified by statute, reaffirmed in case law and mandated by the California Rules of Professional Conduct. In short, it prevents an attorney from presenting false testimony or evidence to the court for consideration. Meaning that if they know that you are lying, they must take steps to correct the record for the court. The discovery of your lie can take place at any point in the representation, and the duty attaches immediately.
9. Case Will Be More Expensive.
Lying about matters relevant to your case will undoubtedly prolong the representation. It may also take your case on tangents to recover from the tardy unveiling of the truth. This will all end up costing you more, especially since your attorney had not been able to plan for it.
10. What Benefit Do You Receive?
If it will ultimately come out in court, deposition, or discovery, what benefit does the lie have? And what type of lie or deception to your attorney would ever be productive?
The people who lie to their attorney must think they are smarter than their attorney. And those people must also think they are smarter than everyone else around them, like opposing counsel, opposing parties, witnesses, and judges. But, the truth is that it much easier to tell a liar than it is to effectively tell a lie. Thus, efforts at distorting reality for one’s own benefit, generally, fail miserably when it comes to the law.
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