OJ Simpson, Private Pyle, Jelly Donuts, & Talking to Your Lawyer

 In Blog, Divorce

I’ve been to more than a few seminars with other lawyers oven the last few months and I’ve heard a pretty constant refrain: some clients just don’t share everything with their lawyer.

ojforevanThis is an issue. There’s an old lawyer axiom that says never ask a question that you don’t already know the answer to. To see this in action, check out OJ and the gloves. Between The People vs. OJ Simpson and ESPN’s OJ Simpson: Made in America, OJ’s been (metaphorically) everywhere so far this year.

You wither saw this in the shows or vividly remember when it happened, or both, but well into the trial the prosecution asked OJ to put on the infamous gloves. They didn’t know if they would fit, they assumed despite warnings from experts. Everybody knows what happened. It did not work out well.

No one wants to be in Chris Darden’s shoes in a courtroom. Or deposition. Or mediation. No one includes me.

The only way for me to ask the right questions and avoid an OJ moment is to know … everything. Up front. I promise, whatever you tell me, I’ve heard worse. Really. So has every lawyer practicing for more than a few years.

Here’s the thing about not telling your lawyer the full story -it effects the entire process. All of it. It affects me, you, the kids, the potential ex, the judge, the final decision. In ways you can’t appreciate when we begin.

Let’s take a lesson from one of my favorite movies – Full Metal Jacket. Private Pyle (a great Vincent D’Onofrio) is a111111111111111111111111111111111111111111111 problem recruit. He’s overweight and not terribly coordinated. His unit is charged with watching over him, knowing everything he does, the better to keep him in line. Everything he does. He’s supposed to let them know what’s going on with him. It’s all about trust.

One night the sergeant discovers Pyle’s locker is unlocked – a pretty big sin in and of itself. Flipping through it (flip is exactly the right verb) the sergeant finds “A Jelly Donut!” Food is not allowed outside the mess hall; Pyle is not allowed jelly donuts in the first place. He snuck it out, hid it in his footlocker, the guys that were supposed to be on top of him didn’t have a clue.

The squad is punished. Push-ups and extra duty. Pyle gets to eat the donut – as the sergeant says, “they’re paying for it, you eat it.”

Keeping things from your lawyer is sort of like that jelly donut. You might feel better – or think you feel better – keeping something to yourself and forgoing a few seconds of embarrassment, but everyone, including you, will eventually pay for it.

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