I like to tell my clients they are in the driver’s seat. As their attorney, I am the navigator. My job is to advise them on the law, make the best recommendations I can, and provide the most lucid explanations for those recommendations. But, ultimately, the client is in control. It is client’s business. The client’s passion. And so, I believe the client should feel empowered to direct the attorney-client relationship.
Here is an example: before I draft a contract for a client, I discuss with them the various forms of dispute resolution available as remedies for contractual breaches. As I discussed in a previous post, contracting parties can elect to arbitrate claims or pursue them in court. They can chose what state’s law applies to govern the agreement. They can even specify in what particular forum and venue (i.e., the court and the jurisdiction) the dispute should be heard. They can agree to allocate attorneys’ fees to the party that prevails on a litigation claim. Or not. They can also chose not to specify a particular dispute resolution mechanism at all.
Once I am confident my client understands the pros and cons of the various choices available, and once I have traced the consequences of each decision to help a client understand how various decisions impact each other, it is my preference to leave the final informed decision to my client. Within the bounds of the law, it is important to me that my clients feel empowered to run their businesses as they see fit.
This is not to say that lawyers do not have a responsibility to proactively identify legal issues for their clients. To the contrary, lawyers should take the lead analyzing a client’s business and identifying risk factors. But the decision to employ a certain legal strategy or to pursue a particular legal tactic is ultimately the client’s.