Clients naturally seek an opinion from me that predicts an outcome in accordance with their desires. Simply put they want to hear their lawyer tell them that they will win. I invariably resist the temptation to dispense the requested reassurance for a variety of personal, practical and historical reasons. Prospective clients especially want to hear that the cash they are about to lay out will not be done so in vain. Long ago I learned to refrain from giving them anything that remotely approaches or could be misconstrued as a guarantee of a specific outcome.
Personally, it is my preference to render a prediction that is less than optimistic at the outset and upgrade the prognosis later on in the relationship than to initially paint a rosy picture only to yank the rug out from under their feet when things develop in an adverse manner. People are reluctant to accept my refusal to tell them that, “Everything will be all right,” even though I tell them that it would be irresponsible to for me to predict an outcome without knowing all the facts and circumstances. Many go elsewhere and write a check to the lawyer who is willing to tell them what they want to hear as an inducement to getting a person to write the lawyer a check. This tactic is oftimes followed by a recantation of the prior confident representation later on in the deal, pointing to some allegedly unknown and/or undisclosed fact that snatches defeat from the jaws of victory. This is bullshit in my mind since a lawyer should not render an opinion in the absence of a complete understanding of what lies ahead. Many individuals who have been victimized in this respect return many months and mucho dinero later to tell me that they should have listened to me when I told then that it would be a rough road with no guarantee of success.
Practically, it is not a good idea to commit to a particular result and focus in that direction at the outset because it may be not be the correct path. As Yogi Berra is quoted as having said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” But don’t take it prior to reaching it. One should not choose from a number of alternatives unless and until it is necessary to make that choice. Litigants understandably want to know how much money they will get from an accident claim or how much jail they will have to do in recompense for a transgression. They are entitled to this information, but not until it is actually information and not mere speculation. Care must given in outlining various scenarios and putting actual numbers of dollars or days in custody in the equation. When integral to preparing a client for future possibilities, I will use absurd figures, most times unrealistically low when explaining how things may play out. I will tell a person making a claim after an automobile accident that if their medical bills total one dollar that they would likely be claiming a total of three dollars after adding in compensation for pain and suffering. A person facing a jail sentence will be told that if he or she is sentenced to six days in jail they would have the option of serving the actual jail with fifty percent time off for good behavior leaving three days in custody or of doing the entire six days in Lindsey Lohan jail, aka slave labor with no time off for good behavior. It is explained to them that I have refrained from using semi-real numbers in the equations because no matter how much of a disclaimer is given, they will fixate on that amount of money or jail as having been an actual prediction as opposed to an analogy for the purpose of explanation. Then when four months jail turns in to nine months jail or when ten thousand dollars turns out to be five thousand they say, “Hey wait. You told me it would be X.” No amount of, “I said that was just and example,” or, “I wasn’t using real numbers,” will shake a disappointed person from the belief that I somehow lied to them bout the predicted outcome.
Historically, it is unwise to point to center field because for every one Babe Ruth there are one thousand asses as is shown by most if not all of the great stories from mythology and religion Midas, Prometheus, Cassandra, Icarus, Pandora and Ramses to name but a few would testify under penalty of perjury that nothing in this life is punished more swiftly surely and severely than the sin of false pride. When asked to make an uber-positive prediction at any stage in the relationship I cite the above listed and others who have been relegate to the eternal damnation column and tell the inquiring individual that they really do not want me to be express undue optimism because, “God will smite me…excuse me, God will smite thee if i commit the sin of false pride.” That usually ends all inquiry in this respect.
The bottom line is that the result is the same whether I predict it with confidence or not. Bragging about it in advance does not make it more likely that we will achieve to the full potential of the situation. Many clients or prospective client have heard me explain that unfortunately I am not in the good news business. this is the reality business.
I am undoubtedly financially poorer but feel that I am spiritually richer for the path I have chosen this respect.