Sometimes Lawyers Tell Clients To Lie, Sometimes Clients Say Lawyers Made Them Lie

This piece, Tri-Cities Lawyer Arrested for Contempt (November 30, 2005), reports on a lawyer arrested for contempt for pressuring his client to lie at trial.  The laywyer was caught when the client presented the judge with the email exchanges documenting the lawyer’s advice to the client to lie – and her response that “I
understand that in defense cases you cannot always tell the entire
truth. I am just concerned that I am telling a complete lie.”

At the other end of the spectrum is this case, North Adams Client Loses Claim Against Lawyer (Berkshire Eagle Staff, December 4, 2005), where a client apparently chose to lie about the facts of his case in Bankruptcy Court and then sued his lawyer for malpractice, blaming him both for the outcome and forcing the client to lie.  The lawyer denied the accusation and the judge found that a client could not sue his lawyer
for his own decision to lie under oath.

The lessons here is don’t advise a client to lie in writing or in fact, ever! And the corollary is that you should be sure to document your advise so that you can’t later be accused of asking your client to lie.
We agree with the commenter below, of course, and changed the above to reflect that you should never, ever tell a client to lie, period!  That’s where writing can help too, because if you write an email like the one that the Tri-Cities attorney did and then read it over, chances are that you’ll  realize that you’ve stepped over the line.