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Are lawyers allowed to lie to their clients?

Are Lawyers Allowed to Lie to Their Clients?

The Ethical Obligation of Honesty

As officers of the court, lawyers have an ethical obligation to be honest and truthful – not just with judges and juries, but with their own clients too. The American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state:“A lawyer shall not knowingly make a false statement of material fact or law to a third person.” [Rule 4.1] So, what do you do, if you get hit – with one of these things? What if your lawyer lies to you about a key fact or legal issue in your case? It’s a betrayal of trust, and a violation of the ethical rules governing our profession.But here’s the rub, the rules also say a lawyer can “fail to disclose a material fact…if disclosure is prohibited by Rule 1.6.” [Rule 4.1(b)] Rule 1.6 is the duty of confidentiality – meaning, your lawyer can’t disclose confidential information about your case, without your consent.So in some situations, your lawyer may be obligated to stay silent on certain issues, rather than being fully transparent. It’s a delicate balance between the duty of candor, and the duty of confidentiality.

When Can a Lawyer Withhold Information?

There are limited circumstances where a lawyer is permitted to withhold information from you, or be less than fully transparent:

  1. If disclosing the information would violate the attorney-client privilege or reveal a confidence you’ve shared.
  2. If disclosing the information could reasonably be expected to put you at risk of criminal charges or civil liability.
  3. If disclosing the information could jeopardize your legal claim or defense strategy.

For example, your lawyer can’t reveal that you privately confessed guilt, if that could expose you to prosecution. Or disclose weaknesses in your case, if that could undermine your legal position. But outside of those limited exceptions, your lawyer is ethically bound to be fully honest and forthcoming with you about the facts and legal issues involved in your matter.

The Slippery Slope of Dishonesty

It could be that you simply did not see the bus, or maybe the other driver ran a red light and T-boned your car. But if your lawyer starts lying or misleading you about key details, it creates a slippery slope. Once that line is crossed, it becomes easier for the lies to multiply and the betrayal of your trust to compound. Pretty soon, you could find yourself being billed for work that wasn’t actually done, or having settlement offers concealed from you. That’s why the rules prohibiting dishonesty are so strict. It preserves the sanctity of the attorney-client relationship and prevents a minor ethical lapse from snowballing into something much worse. As former prosecutors and defense attorneys, we’ve seen what can happen when lawyers start cutting corners on ethics. It undermines the integrity of the entire justice system. So we make it an inviolable policy to be 100% truthful and transparent with our clients, every step of the way.

A Real-Life Example of Attorney Dishonesty

To illustrate the dangers, let’s look at a real-world example from a few years ago:An elderly woman was being taken advantage of by her criminal defense lawyer. The lawyer kept lying to her about the status of her case, assuring her it was proceeding smoothly while doing absolutely no work on her file. Months went by, with the lawyer continuing to bill the client while her case languished untouched. Eventually, the truth came out – and the lawyer was disbarred and prosecuted for theft by deception. It all stemmed from that first lie and the ethical breach of dishonesty toward a client. If the lawyer had been upfront from the beginning, none of it would have happened. So you can see how important client honesty is, and why it’s taken so seriously by ethics boards. One fib can put your entire career at risk, if you start down that road.

How to Respond If Your Lawyer Lies

If you catch your lawyer in a lie or feel they are intentionally misleading you, it’s a big red flag. Here are some steps you may want to consider:

  1. Confront them directly about the dishonesty and get their explanation. There’s always a possibility of a misunderstanding.
  2. Request a full accounting of your case file and billing records to gauge the extent of the issue.
  3. Consult another attorney to get a second opinion on your options. You may have grounds to file an ethics complaint or malpractice suit.
  4. Terminate representation and find a new lawyer you can trust, if the violations appear serious.

Dishonest conduct by an attorney is a violation of your rights as a client. You don’t have to tolerate it, and there are remedies available through the disciplinary system.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

“Regardless of how tough your situation is – we are here to help you. Our criminal defense lawyers work hard to have a solution for you, irrespective of the situation you find yourself in.”

The Consequences for Lying

For lawyers, the penalties for lying to a client can be extremely severe:

  • Public censure or reprimand by the state bar disciplinary board
  • Suspension of law license for a period of months or years
  • Disbarment and permanent loss of the ability to practice law
  • Criminal charges for fraud, theft, or other offenses

Disciplinary actions also become a permanent part of a lawyer’s record, which can make it difficult to be hired by other firms or secure malpractice insurance.Needless to say, no lawyer wants to jeopardize their entire career over a lapse in honesty with a client. The risks are simply too high, which is why most reputable firms have robust policies in place to prevent it. At our firm, we have a multi-attorney review process for all major cases and billing practices. It creates a system of checks-and-balances to ensure no individual lawyer could lie or mislead a client, even if they tried.

Client Honesty

When you hire a lawyer, you need to be able to trust them completely. You’re putting your case, your finances, and potentially your freedom into their hands. So if a lawyer is willing to lie about the basic facts and legal issues involved, how can you have any confidence in their ability to represent you zealously and effectively?The answer is, you can’t. That’s why rules prohibiting dishonesty are so integral to the ethical practice of law.At the end of the day, the attorney-client relationship has to be founded on open, honest communication in both directions. Anything less is a violation of your rights as a client and the ethical duties of your lawyer.

“Many clients are often embarrassed by their situation, and don’t speak openly about their alleged issue. We encourage open dialogue, and recommend full transparency – so we can give you the best possible legal advice.”

Getting a Second Opinion

If you have any doubts about whether your current lawyer is being fully honest and transparent with you, it never hurts to get a second opinion from another firm.At Spodek Law Group, we’re always happy to provide free consultations and case evaluations. We can review your file and let you know if we see any potential issues with how your matter is being handled. The consultation is completely confidential, and you’re under no obligation if you decide to stay with your current counsel. Our only goal is to make sure you understand your options and rights as a client.

“The Spodek Law Group handles cases nationwide. We have offices in NYC and Los Angeles.”

So if you need a second set of eyes on your case, or if you’re concerned about dishonest conduct by your lawyer, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’ll give you a candid assessment and advice on the best path forward.

H2: Hypothetical Scenarios

Let’s walk through a few hypothetical scenarios to illustrate when a lawyer may or may not be permitted to withhold information:

Scenario 1: You’re charged with a DUI, and you confide in your lawyer that you were indeed drinking before driving that night. Can your lawyer disclose that admission to the prosecutor? No, your lawyer cannot reveal that confidential information without your consent, even to the prosecution. Doing so could expose you to criminal liability, which the duty of confidentiality protects against.

Scenario 2: Your lawyer discovers a major flaw in the prosecution’s case that could get the charges dismissed. Are they obligated to share that analysis with you? Yes, your lawyer must disclose that potentially case-winning information to you. It doesn’t violate any privileges, and withholding it could jeopardize your defense.

Scenario 3: You ask your lawyer’s candid assessment of your odds at trial. If they believe the evidence against you is overwhelming, must they give you that honest opinion? Generally yes, your lawyer should provide an honest evaluation of your case’s strengths and weaknesses so you can make informed decisions. However, they could potentially frame it as their “legal opinion” rather than a statement of fact.

Scenario 4: You’re represented in a civil lawsuit, and your lawyer learns the other side made a key mathematical error in their damages calculation. Must your lawyer share that information? No, your lawyer is not obligated to disclose a mistake or oversight by the opposing party that could undermine your legal position. The duty of zealous advocacy allows withholding such information. As you can see, the rules around honesty vs. confidentiality can get quite nuanced based on the specific situation. That’s why it’s so important to work with an experienced lawyer you can trust to strike that balance appropriately.

Why Honesty Is Paramount

At the end of the day, honesty has to be the bedrock principle for any healthy attorney-client relationship. Without it, there is no trust, and without trust, there is no effective representation. As former prosecutors and defense attorneys, we’ve handled thousands of cases over the years. We’ve seen every trick in the book from both sides. And the one constant is that deception and dishonesty never pay off in the long run.

The most successful lawyers – the ones who get great results for their clients – are those who deal in honesty and integrity at all times. It’s how you build a reputation and cultivate relationships built on mutual trust and respect. So when you come to our firm, you can expect complete candor and transparency every step of the way. We’ll tell you the unvarnished truth about your situation, your options, and your odds of success – even if it’s not what you want to hear. Because at the end of the day, that’s the only way we can effectively protect your rights and zealously represent your interests. Anything less is a disservice to you as a client and a violation of our ethical duties as officers of the court.

If you ever have any doubts or concerns about the honesty of your legal representation, we’re here to provide a second opinion. Just reach out and schedule a free consultation. We’ll give you a candid assessment so you can make the best decisions for your case.

Call us at Spodek Law Group today. Our number is 212-210-1851, or schedule a free consultation online.

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