Facing criminal charges can be stressful. Understandably concerned about what will happen in their case and what possible outcomes may occur, an individual seeking legal counsel often desires a guarantee. Potential clients often ask what I can guarantee to them if they retain my services. I always tell them the same thing – that while I understand the desire to have a guarantee, I am ethically unable to give them the assurances that they seek.
While each state does have its own code of ethics for practicing attorneys, it is universally true that defense attorneys are prohibited from guaranteeing an outcome in any case – regardless of how likely an outcome may be based upon their prior experiences. An educated guess is permissible, while a guarantee is not. This rule exists to protect defendants from unethical attorneys, since a person facing criminal charges may be willing to pay anything to make his case go away, thus leaving him vulnerable to the manipulation of an unscrupulous attorney.
Choosing the right attorney to defend your case is critical. You should always be wary of an attorney who is willing to guarantee an outcome in your case, as such a guarantee would indicate the attorney either does not follow the rules of ethics, or perhaps worse, is not familiar with the rules of ethics. When entrusting your future to a legal professional, honesty should certainly be a trait that is valued and sought after. There will always be those to tell you what you want to hear, but an honest and ethical lawyer will serve you better in the long run.
We are certainly accustomed to expecting guarantees. Most of our purchases do come with guarantees, so it’s not unnatural to expect that a purchase as significant as the retention of an attorney should come with some set of expectations. Always remember the cliche – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
It is, of course, perfectly acceptable for an attorney to convey a firm sense of confidence in outcome, so long as that confidence is not framed in absolute terms.
What can an attorney actually guarantee to you? An attorney can promise to make themselves easily accessible, respond promptly to your phone calls and emails, keep you informed as to the going ons in your case, aggressively advocate on your behalf, and provide you with a high level of legal service regardless of the nature of the criminal charges you are facing.