Apparently but unbeknownst to me, I speak a second language and rather fluently at that. As best I can tell this incomprehensible second language starts in an initial meeting with a prospective client. My initial client meetings usually last at least 90 minutes to 2 hours on average. I would like to state that it is all 100% case specific dialogue but I tend to deviate a might during the interview and regale all those fortunate individuals present with a good story that may or may not be self serving. O.k., who we kidding? All the stories are self serving but that is not the point here. During these Herculean, marathon interviews I always ask the potential client pointed questions that are obviously important to their case. These specific, direct questions are always prefaced with a statement explaining how important the sought after information is to the case. (Notice the theme here?) On occasion the hyperbole meter maxes out when I tell the client the fate of their case and the free world is dependent upon their 100% disclosure. Obviously, the intent is for the potential client to understand that this is not a game and if my firm and I are going to represent him, her, them, etc., complete disclosure is a must. If there is any bad news in any shape, form or fashion, let’s get it out there from the get-go and figure how to best deal with it. More importantly, the client has got to realize that his/her credibility is vital to the success of the case.
Despite giving very explicit requests for a client to disclose everything, good or bad, apparently this is the part of the interview where my words inexplicably morph into a language not understood by the interviewee. I am all for due diligence when it comes to investigating and researching defendants and potential defendants. In every case there needs to be a thorough search conducted on the potential defendant (or defendants) whether it be through secretary of states, corporate documents, Federal Regulations, Google, Dogpile, Myspace, Facebook, criminal records, civil records, web sites, all the www. sites you can tap into for information, Twitter, Tweeter, etc., but, really, do we have to extensively investigate our own clients? Once you experience the unspeakable bliss of learning something harmful about your client during his/her deposition or during trial instead of during the initial interview, the answer is, yes.
Years ago prior to one particular deposition I requested copies of all the medical records the defense counsel had obtained via their non party subpoenas. There was no real surprise in the medical records. My client had a car wreck on his way to the beautiful Alabama beaches. His vacation, and according to him, his life, were ruined as a result of the back injuries sustained in this particular wreck. During his deposition, my client was asked if he ever had any prior wrecks or other incidences where he sustained injuries to his back. He answered the same way he answered me in the client interview. No, he had no prior back injuries. Heck, he was never involved in any other incident. “Well now, let’s just see how much money we are going to get put on this baby at the end of the deposition” I thought to myself. Yes sir, prior to this particular wreck my guy was as healthy as one of those Muscle Magazine cats. A model of health with no prior back problems. Further, he was a salt of the earth kind of guy with no past criminal activities. At least that is what he told me in my interview and during his deposition prep. This is also how he testified during the deposition. Unfortunately the states of Florida, Mississippi, Georgia, Louisiana and Tennessee keep records of criminal activity as well as car wrecks. It turns out the hospitals located in those states keep records as well. Who would have know that in the state of Florida trying to elude police and then assaulting the very same pursuing police would lead to criminal charges? What, really? Likewise, as a result of innumerable prior car wrecks in the other aforementioned states there were numerous ER visits with the chief complaints of pain being to the very same back that at one time I guess was pristine. Never mind the 7 prior lawsuits he filed in other states to recover for those prior back injuries. Never mind the repeated blows he received to his back as a result of a fight he got into with several people at a Waffle House in who knows where Mississippi two weeks prior to his Alabama wreck. I have no problem with pre-existing conditions. I do, however, have a huge problem with a client that has not been up front with me and that is not credible. I will not represnt a client that has not been upfront and honest. Life is too short and my time is too valuable.