What Your Lawyer Can Not Do for You

Last week I posted about the things your attorney can do for you.  This week I want to address some of the things your lawyer CAN NOT do for you:

  • Your attorney can not change the law. Very often, the law isn’t fair. Sometimes very old statutes don’t accommodate modern situations very well. Your lawyer may not agree with the law either, but we have no choice but to work with the laws as they are.The exception to this rule is that some law can be changed or modified by an Appellate or Supreme Court.  This process will generally take years and cost tens of thousands of dollars, however.
  • Unsophisticated Change the facts in your case or ignore facts you don’t like. Whatever happened is what happened.  However, your lawyer may be able to advise you on how to make some changes that might help you improve your situation and how to present the facts to a court in a way that is favorable to you.
  • Violate the law or the rules of professional conduct. Your lawyer can not help you hide or destroy evidence, hide your assets, block the other party from access to information or witnesses, or do anything else unethical or illegal.
  • Make the other party be reasonable. The other party may make offers that you don’t want to accept, and may reject a settlement you want. Your lawyer cannot force the other side to settle if they don’t want to.
  • Force you to accept a settlement if you don’t want to. Your lawyer can help you evaluate the offer, and advise you how the offer might compare with the result of a trial, but it is up to you whether or not to settle your case.
  • Communicate with the judge without the other party present. Your lawyer can’t just call the judge to explain your side. The only time your lawyer can properly talk to the judge is in court with the other side present. There are a few exceptions in actual, valid emergencies, however.
  • Guarantee how the judge or jury will respond to your unique facts, or guarantee any outcome in your case.
  • File motions or pleadings that have no basis in fact or law. Your lawyer is required to only file motions or pleadings that are appropriate for your case.
  • Get you a different judge if you don’t like the judge handling your case. There are limited situations where a judge may recuse himself, but those situations are rare.
  • “Make” the judge decide your case a certain way, or “let” the judge decide your case a certain way. The judge will do whatever the judge thinks is right based on the facts presented to the court and within the limits of current law.
  • Ignore requirements or time limitations set by Tennessee statutes.
  • Make real life resemble movies and TV. On television, lawyers often take extreme measures and create elaborate schemes to cheat the system and trick their opponents so they can get their clients the results they want. In real life, lawyers who try to practice this way don’t get to keep their law licenses very long.


Next week:  What you can do for your lawyer.