Without a doubt, the hardest thing for me is telling people what they don’t want to hear. While it is very difficult to do, it is also a basic necessity for lawyers to have the intestinal fortitude to sit a client down, look her in the eye, and say “I’m sorry but you are wrong.” It is also very difficult to tell someone who has a very good moral or common sense argument that the law takes a contrary position.
Probably the most frequent sorts of “bad news” things I’ve had to tell people are these kinds of matters:
1. “I know the person in front of you shouldn’t have stopped as hurriedly as she did, but Ohio’s ‘assured clear distance’ policy makes you the one who is at fault because you rear-ended her.”
2. “Yes, I am aware of the fact that you were not a wrongdoer in your marriage, and that it was your wife who decided to stray and to leave. But that has very little, if anything, to do with ‘who gets what’ or who will be child custodian, etc.”
3. “I understand you are willing to spend a lot of money, time and effort in prosecuting this case, but the fact is that you are incorrect legally, and no amount of money will change that. Therefore, I won’t take your case because it has no legal basis.”
4. Here is probably one of the most frequent ones: “Yes, I know you bought this defective product that had foreign material in it, I know that the grocery store should not have sold it, and I know that it could have caused real problems. But I also know that you did not consume any of it and were not injured. Therefore, you don’t have a $100,000.00 case. You also don’t have a $50.00 case. That can of soda that included the ‘foreign matter’ probably cost $2.00, and that is what your case is worth.”