When people call me for Illinois legal advice, I tell them the number one thing to do is be honest. It helps their case and helps their credibility. And of course it’s just the right thing to do. So I’m always surprised when there are attorneys who don’t follow the same rule. Or I guess I’m not surprised. Three examples lately have puzzled me.

Attorney #1 told a potential client that he could get his whole record cleared within 35 days tops. That surprised the client as he had heard different from other attorneys so he called me to find out the truth. Unfortunately this attorney was either lying or just making stuff up because the minimum time for a challenge to sealing or expunging your record is 60 days and even then the process takes 4-6 months on average from beginning to end. But some lawyers will just tell clients what they want to hear in order to get a case.

Attorney #2 is apparently short on money or burned out from the legal profession because he is teaching grammar school part time. But he assures his potential criminal defense clients that this other job won’t impact his ability to help them. Really??? What happens on the days that he needs to be in school and in court? Aren’t his relationships with prosecutors and Judges going to be lessened because he isn’t around them as much? If this attorney was honest with himself as well as the client of his that was freaked out about the teaching job, he would admit that you can’t be great at two things at once. Attorneys do get burned out on the law at times and some choose to leave the profession for other jobs. That’s fine, but don’t hurt others. Be honest and don’t take on cases that you shouldn’t handle.

Attorney #3 promotes himself heavily and talks about all of the great work that he does for clients. But the truth is that he’s just an incredible marketer and never actually goes to court. The lawyers that work for him do, but many people hire them on the belief that the main guy will be in their corner. That’s not at all true, at least not according to the many people who have fired him and called me for advice. But this guy apparently has no moral compass or is able to ignore it because he makes millions off of his brilliant self promotion.

For you as a potential client of any lawyer, the lesson is that while most lawyers are legit, not everyone is. You won’t offend them if you ask tough questions about them and verify what they do, who will handle your case, what to expect, etc. And if they have a problem with it you should find someone else.