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The ethics of trial practice


Trial work is not for the faint of heart. Lawyers, well aware that their clients rely on them to help them overcome life-changing events, must do everything within the limits of ethics and the law to win their case, while anticipating and properly managing the challenges created by the actions of their own clients. This article explores the issues that can arise when welcoming clients and preparing witnesses, as well as the duty to correct potential false testimonials.

Welcoming clients and preparing witnesses

The process of admitting a new case can be fraught with ethical dangers. For example, if a potential client informs a lawyer that she fell down the stairs of an upscale apartment building but, when questioned, reveals that she is not sure of the exact step. she fell or the exact cause of her fall, can or should the lawyer explore the possibility that other facts support the client’s case? If the client suffered a herniated disc rather than a quadriplegia, should this be taken into account in the lawyer’s decision to accept the case or not? In other words, for a contingency lawyer, to what extent should the severity of a client’s injury affect the decision to further investigate or whether the case is worth the risk of represent this client?

Lawyer: How did the incident go on the steps?

Client: I am not sure. I just know I slipped on something and fell back onto my butt on a flight of stairs.

Lawyer: Which step have you fallen on?

Client: I have no idea.

Lawyer: What made you fall?

Client: I am not sure. It was all so fast; I was in tremendous pain and shock.

Lawyer: I am not asking you to invent facts; I only want the truth. But I want you to do your best to remember all the facts.


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