On Demand

Who's in Charge: The Ethics of Listening, and Not Listening, To Your Clients (2021 Update)

1h 2m

Created on November 30, 2021




Lawyers frequently face client requests and instructions which are questionable, ill-informed, or even illegal. Many clients and even some lawyers are surprised to learn that lawyers often do not need to follow client directions, and in some instances lawyers are prohibited from listening to clients, or commit legal malpractice when they do. Lawyers who disobey client directions often face ethical, disciplinary, and civil liability concerns, while lawyers who follow ill-advised client directions face equally-hazardous ethics and malpractice issues. The COVID Pandemic and the increasingly remote modes in which many legal services are delivered have limited face-to-face attorney-client meetings and imposed additional challenges for lawyers faced with deciding whether to follow a questionable client directive.

This program will explore problems that arise in both extremes -- being too deferential, and being too paternalistic. The course will conclude by exploring the special case of whether and when an attorney calls the shots with a client whose mental capacity is diminished or questionable. 

Taught by Daniel Abrams, this program will provide attorneys both substantive knowledge about when it is appropriate to defer to a client's demand, and a framework to approach difficult questions related to deferring to client wishes that most attorneys face with some regularity.

Learning Objectives:

  1. Navigate disagreements with clients, including when to follow the client's directive even when the attorney does not concur with it 
  2. Discuss when and how to overrule a client's request, and how to reach a consensus
  3. Recognize how to withdraw when a disagreement is intractable
  4. Appreciate what you must do when a client shows signs of diminished capacity

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