Lawyer jokes are sometimes funny, and sometimes true. But any joke where the punchline confuses “lawyer and liar” is not funny to me. Not funny at all. I believe telling the truth is actually my job, and I expect my clients will take the same approach to truth telling.
In fact, the few times I have had civil clients lie about something – to me, or the other side, even about something small – and when I found out, I have withdrawn from the case.
There are many reasons to have a zero-tolerance policy for clients that shade the truth. But one amazing fact I have learned during my litigation career is that liars never do well in the civil justice system.
They do especially poorly in business litigation and employment lawsuits. Why? Because the following is true:
FACT: If you lied to your ex-employer, and they can prove it, their chances of suing you increase dramatically.
FACT: If you lied to your ex-employer, and they can prove it, nothing you say to the jury will be believable.
FACT: People don’t like liars. People expect people to be honest and forthcoming, even apologetic when it is required.
We get calls from folks all the time who say they have left one job, moved to another in the same industry and now they have received a letter or lawsuit stating they must cease and desist, or else.
Sometimes, the caller knows what they have done is in violation of some contract or the law. But most of the time, my potential client, the caller, has no idea they have acted in an offensive or illegal way.
So, how do I help my clients when they have breached a contract, taken trade secrets, and didn’t know what they were doing is wrong? We confess. We apologize. We follow the rules. We tell the truth.
Telling the truth has actually become my secret legal strategy. What, you may wonder? Why would you ever admit you breached a contract? Took trade secret information? Did something wrong?
Well, I encourage this as a legal strategy for two reasons: (1) Telling the truth, apologizing and following the rules almost always makes the lawsuit go away; and, (2) People respect honesty.
When you call our office, don’t be confused when I ask you what you really said or did. Telling the truth is a winning legal strategy. And no, I am a lawyer, not a liar.