Way too often, a lawyer gives the client the best advice he can, perhaps the advice that every other skilled lawyer would impart under the circumstances, only to be met with the client’s foolish rejection of it. Nonetheless, such a result is altogether fair — the client, not the lawyer, will ultimately pay the price for his decision, and so he should indeed be the one to decide. Lawyers can only impart advice, not insist that it be taken.

Still, when the client rejects the advice and the outcome is bad, the lawyer must keep silent, even if the lawyer may look bad when all conclude that the client acted on the lawyer’s advice. It would be indefensibly wrong and unethical to publicly or even privately say, for example, “I told my client to plead guilty [or settle the case civilly] and cut his losses, but he foolishly overruled me, and the result is this debacle” — thus revealing a privileged conversation. If lawyers can’t keep their mouths shut in trying times, they don’t deserve to be lawyers (as we have often said in this column)!

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