What Decisions Can You Make as a Client?

  1. Civil Disputes
  2. What Decisions Can You Make as a Client?
Legal Dispute

Are you currently involved in a legal dispute or in the process of seeking a lawyer? As a client or potential future client, it is important to know what decisions are yours to make and what decisions are your lawyer’s to make. Rule 1.2 of the Rules of Professional Conduct in North Carolina governs the answer to this question.

First and foremost, the client decides what the goal of the lawsuit is. Often, the client has this goal in mind when the reach out to a lawyer in the first place. It is up to your lawyer to discuss that goal with you and then begin discussing how they believe they can best achieve that goal. For this, a lawyer does not need a client’s permission for every step of the way.

The following decisions can be made by a lawyer without permission of their client: jury selection, which witnesses to call in trial, what kind of evidence should be introduced in trial, any motions to be filed pre-trial, and what methods of discovery to utilize.

Lawyers have at least seven years of higher education and you, as the client, are paying them for their expertise in the above decisions. While you may believe a piece of evidence is important to a case or know facts that you believe will help your case, your lawyer might know something you do not and choose not to use it. For example, perhaps you believe it is important to showcase a piece of evidence regarding your finances, but your lawyer knows that using such evidence could backfire and actually be used against your favor. Similarly, perhaps you believe your neighbor’s experience with your Homeowner’s Association is important to your case, but your lawyer chooses not to bring that information to light. Your lawyer may choose not to bring such information to light because you already have a strong enough case without it and they do not want to focus attention away from that already strong case. Lawyers are strategists and that is what you pay them to be.

This does not mean that clients cannot make decisions beyond the goal of the lawsuit, though. There are arenas of the lawsuit in which clients have control too. For example, the following decisions are 100% up to the client: whether to settle, whether to enter a plea agreement, whether to waive a jury trial, and whether the client will testify at the trial. Your lawyer may advise you one way or another about all of the above (and should!) but, ultimately, those decisions are up to you. For example, your lawyer may tell you that taking a plea is your best option because you are likely to serve a long length of time in prison if you do not. While this advice comes from a place of education, strategy, and knowledge of the case, it is your decision whether to take their advice or not.

If you are seeking counsel, it is important to know what you can and cannot control in your own lawsuit. At King Law Offices, we take pride in making sure our clients are well-informed of all aspects of their case, including what they can and cannot control.

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