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Leaving Legal Advice by Text

Q. My knucklehead criminal defense client texted me that he really wants to testify. He's got loads of priors, and the prosecutor will eat him alive. How can I get my point across so that he stays far away from the witness stand?

A. For starters, don't even try to get your point across by texting. No matter how your phrase it, the wrong medium sends the wrong message.

If you really want to communicate the gravity of this issue, why would you address it in terse messages which are designed for quick, casual exchanges among social friends?

This is too serious of an issue to discuss in the form of text messages. In fact, most of the issues confronting our clients are too serious for texting. Simply put, text messages aren't designed for methodical explanations on issues of dire consequence.

As lawyers, we have an ethical duty to "explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation." we cannot leave this task to truncated texts that pop up on the phone of an individual who may read them while distracted with other things.

Sometimes, clients will text us precisely because they want to avoid serious discussions on unpleasant issues. It's our job to help our clients confront their fears and capture their undivided attention in an environment that promotes deliberation and a full discussion of all implications.

Since you are already on your cell phone, perhaps you can use it to call your client and arrange a face-to-face meeting.

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By The Lawyer's Lawyers | Kramer & Connolly and Irwin R. Kramer who are responsible for the content of this informational website.   This website is designed for lawyers faced with attorney grievances. As cases do differ, past performance does not guarantee future results.
 

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OR THE BOARD ON PROFESSIONAL RESPONSIBILITY OF THE D.C. BAR