Did Your Attorney Show You the Full Menu?

Attorneys have a duty to give you enough information that you can make intelligent decisions. Often attorneys fail to tell you about the options you have or have misunderstandings about what you could do to avoid litigation. Failure to inform you of your options is arguably often unethical.

Did Your Attorney Only Talk About Going to Court?

When you first go to an attorney he or she should present to you options you have besides going to court. Many times the decision to go to court makes a bad situation only worse or only benefits the attorneys, especially financially. All lawyers have to follow ethics rules. In Washington State, Rule of Professional Conduct 1.4(b) states: A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. Lawyers often know a lot about the “law” and how a Court might resolve your case but know very little about how the process of getting your case resolve effects you and your family.

Did Your Lawyer Only Talk About the Law?

Attorneys spend a lot of time learning how to: 1) spot legal issues 2) apply legal principals to those facts 3) marshal evidence to support why your position and 4) advocate your position on legal issues. Attorneys spend much less time, sometimes none, learning procedural options besides formal litigation to resolve differences. Attorneys should inform you of the full menu of options available to resolve your case.

Did Your Attorney Talk About Options Besides Court?

In Washington State, when a matter is likely to involve litigation, it may be necessary under Ethics Rule 1.4 to inform the client of forms of dispute resolution that might constitute reasonable alternatives to litigation. Particularly when the litigation is likely to be expensive and stressful your attorney should make you aware of options besides litigation. All most all litigation is extremely expensive and stressful.

What Options Should My Attorney Tell Me About?

Besides running to court, you might choose mediation or arbitration. You might have been able to try informal negotiations first. Many communities also have specially trained attorneys and other professionals who engage in a special set of procedures called Collaborative Law or Collaborative Practice. This dispute resolution process is commonly used to resolve family law issues and other disputes where you are concerned about the nature of your relationship with the person you have dispute with down the road. Sometimes attorneys just assume you want to attack the person you have a dispute with. Sometimes they assume you just want a hired gun but there are many other approaches your attorney should tell you about.

Why Wouldn’t My Lawyer Tell Me About Collaborative Law?

Many lawyers have never heard of Collaborative Law or have a very limited understanding about what it is about. Some communities have no trained Collaborative Law attorneys. It is rare for an attorney to be taught extensively about Collaborative Law in law school. Collaborative Law is probably not part of most bar exams. Therefore, many attorneys only know bits and pieces about Collaborative Law. Collaborative Law requires a major paradigm shift in the lawyer’s head, and that doesn’t happen automatically for many lawyers. It is often not easy for an old litigating dog to learn new collaborative tricks. It’s natural for humans to be fearful of what they do not fully understand. However, a lawyer’s ignorance should not be an excuse for you to stay uninformed. You can learn more about Collaborative Law at www.collaborativepractice.com which is a very user friendly website for the public and attorneys sponsored by the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals.


International Academy of Collaborative Professionals

Article written by