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as a lawyer how do you know or how do you talk to your client knowing there nothing you can do?

I'm Ayleen and im doing research on being a lawyer #criminal-justice #lawyer

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Peter V.’s Answer

You also asked how a lawyer knows there is nothing that can be done. Similar to communicating that message to a client, there are some big picture themes that will apply regardless of context: as a lawyer, you get to the answer by knowing your client's story, knowing the applicable rules (including after doing research if you need to), and getting help from other lawyers. Even as a solo practitioner, you can talk shop with other lawyers without disclosing confidential client information. Finding a mentor can be especially important in a situation like that (solo or small firm/department). And if you aren't sure of an answer, you can become comfortable saying: I will look into that, and I will get you an answer as soon as I can. A speech along those lines can instill confidence in your skills and make your client feel valued; essentially, you are saying, "Yours is an extremely difficult problem and I understand that. I am the right lawyer to answer the question, and I care enough to want to get the answer right for you." Then, at the end, if the answer is bad news, you can use your people skills for appropriate delivery (other commenters have given good insight on that piece).
Thank you comment icon Great points! Desiree Giler Mann
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Desiree’s Answer

Hi Ayleen - I think that it's rare that there is "nothing" a lawyer can do. However, it is sometimes true that the outcome the client is seeking is not possible or likely. At such times, client counseling is very important.

At the very least, the lawyer can explain the process to the client -- what are the procedural steps, what may/may not be admitted into evidence, the ethical requirements on officers of the court, what the burden of proof is for a judge or jury to decided the questions, what has happen in prior cases (either based on personal experience in that court and/or based on legal precedent, where other judges have issued opinions in similar cases), applicable sentencing guidelines, etc. With this information client can better evaluate their options. For instance, in a criminal case, the defendant may want to avoid jail time entirely, but the lawyer can explain that based on the facts of the allegation, the evidence, the defendant's past criminal history, etc, that jail is likely. Then they can then strategize how to put forth the best defense under the circumstances to try to achieve the minimal amount of jail time.

Similarly, in corporate law, the business clients might really want to do some work in a specific region that presents legal challenges, and the lawyer can talk them thru the permitting requirements, the process controls the business will have to implement to get the permit, circumstances that qualify for an exception from the permit, the options and risks of working with third parties who already have the permit, etc. Maybe the company cannot do that work as quickly or cheaply as they first envisioned, but at least they will be able to it in compliance with the law and protect the company's brand & reputation, whilst ensuring they don't put their clients at risk.

In fact, preparing the client (their families, business, whomever/whatever is involved) for a realistic outcome itself a service. The law can be very complicated so just offering clients some plain talk and explanations can be of value. And, if the lawyer can identify other alternatives or different solutions to the client's situation, that can be a big help to the client.

Of course, no one wants to hear that they cannot get what they want, so good lawyers work on their people skills, too (much like doctors work on their bedside manner).
Thank you comment icon I agree on all fronts--this is spot on. Peter V. Hilton
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Kim’s Answer

If there's "nothing" you can do, why did you take the case?

Even the guilty deserve representation, to first, try to get off on a technicality, and second, to get the best sentencing outcome possible.
Be honest, be candid. People don't like dealing with people who are evasive. They know they messed up. . . .
Thank you comment icon May attorneys are assigned cases -- either by the court (e.g., Public Defenders) or partners at a law firm or business leaders at a company -- that appear challenging at first. Sometimes, the facts of the matter aren't fully known when the attorney first takes the case and only become apparent once the attorney has assumed the case. In such situations, aside from leaving the profession, one usually doesn't have a realistic option to not take the case. However, each lawyer has an ethical duty to zealously represent their client. Your advice about being honest and candid is spot on, but I do not think it's fair to suggest that lawyers can easily avoid hard cases. Desiree Giler Mann
Thank you comment icon You are correct. I've always associated with small practices, and wasn't thinking about larger firms or public defenders. Thanks for pointing that out! Kim Igleheart
Thank you comment icon Of course - the more perspectives to share with students the better! Desiree Giler Mann
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