Credibility is a lawyer’s most valuable commodity.
A lawyer may be brilliant, may be blessed with a silver tongue, but if he isn’t believed he won’t win.
Attaining credibility is very easy, but there’s only one way to do it. You need to look people in the eye and tell the truth.
Credibility is easy to lose. Tell one lie, shade the truth just one time, and any bond between lawyer and client, or between lawyer and judge or juror, will be lost.
The smart lawyer picks his battles. I recall being at a motion hearing. I conceded a point favorable to the defense. The opposing lawyer, apparently surprised by my candor, laughed, saying, “That’s why I like working with Dan. He always tells the truth.” By honestly conceding a relatively unimportant point I became a resource the judge could trust. Clients are better served when their lawyers have the judge’s confidence.
The same is true for jury trials. I don’t know how many times opposing counsel has started the jury selection process by saying something like, “My client and I just want a fair jury.” All the prospective jurors know that any lawyer in his right mind would prefer a heavily biased jury to a fair one, so long as the jury bias was in that lawyer’s favor. So they also know that this lawyer has just lied to them. It is never a good idea to start a new relationship with a lie.
Honesty isn’t just the best policy. It’s also the best strategy.