Should a lawyer involve the client in important decisions?

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Yes. Lawyers’ ethical responsibilities require them to involve clients in decision making. For example, the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct state, “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” (Rule 1.4(b).) Moreover, Standard 4-5.2 of the ABA Standards for Criminal Justice lists a number of decisions that “are to be made by the accused after full consultation with counsel.”

Don’t be fooled by movie and TV defense attorneys who often say things to clients like, “Do it my way or else.” As lawyers’ ethical codes recognize, cases belong to defendants, not to their attorneys. It is always the client, not the attorney, who pays the fine or serves the time. Thus, defendants have the right to have input into important case decisions.

On the other hand, lawyers aren’t mere mouthpieces. They aren’t required to fulfill all of their clients’ demands, especially if doing so would conflict with professionalism or ethical rules.

For more on this topic, see Which decisions are up to the client? Also see In a criminal case, how much control does the defendant have over strategy?

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