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Patricia KingPatricia King (Picasa)

If you are like most lawyers who have been practicing for any length of time, you have had the unfortunate assignment of being the bearer of bad news. It is no comfort that your obligation of communication under the Rules of Professional Conduct requires you to give all news to clients—the good, the bad and the ugly. Your gut instinct is to fire off the bad news in the rapid-speak that you hear in disclaimers on infomercials, and then head for the hills before your client blows. But if you take a minute to consider the process, you could find ways to make it easier on yourself and better assist your client. After all, you are in a service profession, and communication, in addition to being an ethical obligation, is part of the service.

If you have been trying to manage your client’s expectations from the outset, the bad news should not come as a complete shock. Rule 2.1 is an oft-overlooked rule that requires you to give your client independent, objective legal advice, even if it’s not what your client wants to hear. If the adverse outcome is within the realm of expectation, your client should not be completely surprised. Laying the groundwork for possible disappointment will make the news easier to take.

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