False Hope

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false hopeOne of the greatest disservices an attorney can do for a client is give them false hope. Yet, the world is full of attorneys who will promise a prospective client the moon to get their business knowing full well that this odds of their promises coming true less somewhere between slim and none.

In ancient Israel, before the fall of Jerusalem, God sent prophets to warn them to turn away from their evil ways, but there were also false prophets all were telling the people not to worry, that it would all be fine, that Jerusalem was safe behind its walls.

I will raise my fist against all the prophets who see false visions and make lying predictions, and they will be banished from the community of Israel. …This will happen because these evil prophets deceive my people by saying, ‘All is peaceful’ when there is no peace at all! It’s as if the people have built a flimsy wall, and these prophets are trying to reinforce it by covering it with whitewash! – Ezekiel 13:9-10 NLT

I have had clients that really wanted me to tell them what they wanted to hear, instead of my honest assessment of their case.  A few even retained other counsel who were willing to ‘blow smoke’ and encourage and enable their false hopes.  In the end, though, those lawyer-client relationships are damaged when the rosy predictions don’t come true.

On some level, I’d rather a client that cannot honestly face the truth about their case have another lawyer, but I’d far rather the client accept the realities of their case.  That said, I’m always going to pursue the best results I can for a client.  I’m constantly re-evaluating my clients case looking for anything we can take advantage of on their behalf.  And on rare occasions, I’ve been known to get a better result than I thought possible.  I love when that happens, but I would be doing a disservice to have suggested an unlikely outcome was going to happen.  It’s much better to under-promise and over-deliver.  In the end, my job is to get each client the best array of choices possible, and let them choose according to their own weighing of the various risks and rewards of compromise or trial.

False hope may be a good way to get new clients by exploiting their hopes with unrealistic outcomes, but I’d rather have fewer clients and more of them be satisfied with the outcome.  What do you think? Do you want your attorney making rosy promises and telling you what you want to hear?


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