experience provided us with
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September 27, 2013
If you are hiring a lawyer in connection with an employment lawsuit, there are certain pieces of information that you will automatically know to tell your lawyer (or your lawyer should know to ask for): where you worked, what kinds of actions you were subjected to, what adverse actions were taken against you, etc. But there is also information that you won’t tell your lawyer, either because you don’t think about it, or you don’t think it relates to the lawsuit you hired the lawyer to help you with. Here are five things that you should always tell your lawyer.1. The Truth, The Whole Truth, and Nothing but the Truth
You can lie to your priest, you can lie to your family, but never lie to your attorney, even about seemingly small details. A good lawyer won’t judge you for the information you are sharing, and it’s critical that your lawyer know all the pertinent facts. Your lawyer will use information you tell him or her to negotiate on your behalf. If the opposing party realizes that your lawyer does not know the full story, your bargaining power is significantly weakened. And if a lawsuit is filed with knowing misstatements in it, it is more likely to get thrown out and, depending on the nature and egregiousness of the violation, you could be made to pay fees, pay a civil fine, or possibly face criminal perjury charges.
Your lawyer can handle the truth, and you owe it to yourself and your lawyer to always be forthcoming and honest with him or her2. Whom Have You Talked to, and Whom can Your Lawyer Talk to?
Have you talked to other lawyers about your case before coming to your current lawyer? Have you already filed a Charge of Discrimination with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC)? Did you make complaints internally before you were fired or demoted? Have you sought medical treatment for depression, stress, anxiety, or other conditions caused or worsened by what you experienced at work? Are you working with another lawyer in related litigation: for example, if you were fired, make sure your lawyer knows if there is an ongoing administrative hearing relating to your professional license. This is all information that your lawyer needs to know to fully evaluate and prosecute your claims. One thing clients often don’t think about is social media: if you have posted about your possible lawsuit on Facebook, Twitter, Vine, Instagram, or other social media sites, make sure to tell your lawyer.
Similarly, your lawyer needs to know whom he or she can talk to about your case. If you are married, tell your attorney whether it is ok to leave voicemails on your home phone or to send an e-mail to a shared e-mail account relating to developments in your case.3. Who, or What Documents, Will Support Your Story?
Employment lawsuits often come down to differing versions of the same story: he-said, she-said. If there are witnesses who saw your supervisor sexually harass you, or if your boss made a racially derogatory comment in an e-mail, or if your workplace has security cameras that may show you didn’t do what your employer accused you of and fired you for, tell your lawyer. If you have copies of the e-mail or a recording of the statement at issue, that’s great, but even if you don’t, there are methods for your lawyer to request that information from the employer as litigation progresses. But if you don’t tell your lawyer, he or she won’t know to ask for it, and critical evidence might not be discovered to support your case.4. Prior or Pending Lawsuits and Bankruptcy Claims
If you are hiring a lawyer to help you with a discrimination claim, you may not think to mention that you have another ongoing lawsuit arising from a car accident or that you filed bankruptcy in the past. But this is information your lawyer should know. Your attorney also needs to know if you have any criminal record whatsoever. Keeping this information from your lawyer will not prevent the other side from learning about it; it will simply keep your lawyer from being able to do all he or she can to keep the other side from effectively using this information against you.5. Any Unique or Personal Circumstances That May Affect Your Case
Although all are equal in the eyes of the law, each client comes to a law firm with unique circumstances that may have an effect on their case or may be affected by the outcome of the case. For example, if your citizenship status is anything other than a full citizen, you should tell your lawyer that at your first meeting. If you work in a field that requires special licensing, make sure your lawyer knows about that to ensure he or she takes the necessary steps to avoid an adverse impact on your license. If you are going through a divorce, your spouse may be entitled to some of the money you receive as a settlement or a jury award. Make sure your lawyer knows about these types of unique facts so he or she knows all the circumstances and can advise you and make decisions accordingly.
Remember, your lawyer is your advocate and has your best interests in mind at all times. It is far better to tell your attorney more than she needs to know than to withhold facts because you are concerned it will adversely affect your case or you are embarrassed. Your lawyer cannot properly advise you if she does not have all the information available to her. In an employment lawsuit, the attorney-client relationship can last months or years, and it is crucial that you trust your attorney and your attorney trusts you. Being honest and forthcoming with your lawyer from the beginning of the relationship will help ensure that you receive the best representation.