Does your attorney know when to “butt-out”?

It’s not something an attorney knows when they are young because it isn’t taught in law schools. Its something you learn through experience and analysis. Though it is not always easy to recognize, I am much better at it than I was 10 years ago. What I am talking about?

Knowing when the most useful advice and service I can give to my client is to stay out of the matter.

For better or for worse, injecting an attorney into a discussion with non-attorneys changes the dynamic. It is less personal and less tense. Sometimes the dynamic change is exactly what is required. If you are being sued, you need an attorney to get in the middle of it. If you have exhausted all your other options after an auto accident, an attorney’s presence is often stress-reducing.

There are some cases though where getting an attorney involved in the middle of a dispute is counterproductive. I have seen several of them recently. When people have a dispute, particularly family members and they are working through it, sometimes it is better for the attorney to stay in the background. I can provide advice to my client, let my client work directly with the family member or adversary and then help finalize a written agreement. Once I have been added to the dispute the conversation changes forever.  Like the bell that cannot be un-rung, so too is the dynamic of a dispute after the presence of an attorney.

Knowing when to publicly advance your client’s cause, to vigorously pursue their cause and when to work quietly in the background is critical. Sometimes the best advice is for your attorney to remain silent.

Posted by Shawn Roberts

On this blog, I write about and try to answer practical Oklahoma legal questions. My focus and most experience is in estate planning and business issues including Oklahoma non-compete law. I make a living as an attorney in the law firm I founded, Shawn J. Roberts, P.C. in Oklahoma City. I live in Edmond with my wife Amy and my two children, Sam (19) and David (11). We live precisely in the path of where the "wind comes sweeping down the plains."