Can A Lawyer Guarantee A Specific Result?

Some people come into a lawyer's office to discuss their case and ask the lawyer if they could guarantee a specific result. The answer to that question is always no.  A lawyer may never guarantee a result. Each case is different and the outcome of each case is always unpredictable. Lawyers can advise whether the client has a strong case or a weak case and may give an estimate of the outcome of the case. This is what lawyers do day in and day out, give clients their best judgment about the strength of the case and whether the case should be settled and, if so, for how much.   A lawyer's advice to his or her client is extremely important and the general public is entitled to rely upon their lawyer's advice.  Decisions are made every day involving huge amounts of money based upon the lawyer's advice. However, regardless of how competent and honest the lawyer may be, a lawyer may not truthfully guarantee any specific outcome. The reason for that is that the lawyer simply doesn't know.  

The Outcome of a Case is Almost Always Unpredictable

This is especially true when issues of fact are to be decided.  If one side of the controversy says that Driver A had a red light facing him but the other side of the controversy contends that Driver B was the driver with the red light facing him, the outcome of this conflict is highly unpredictable.  Therefore it is impossible for a lawyer to predict the outcome of the case. This is also true in even cases which seem a lot more clear-cut in which there does not seem to be any factual dispute about how the events occurred.

Many cases arise not from factual disputes but from issues of law.  That is, given a factual situation what does the law require.  It is sometimes hard for laymen to understand that an issue of law is not always clear.  In fact, in most cases, issues of law are not clear.  It is true that many issues are governed by statutes or legislative rules which seem to be clear cut.  However, these rules are interpreted by judges who cannot always agree on how such a statute should be interpreted.  Furthermore, most of the law does not involve statutes but rather involves, "common law issues for which no statute is applicable.  In these situations, the law has developed over many years, and judges decide issues of law based upon what appellate courts have done down through the years.  Sometimes modern judges go all the way back to the common law of England for a decision on how an issue of law should be determined.

The Law Is Uncertain 

In order to appreciate the fact that the law is uncertain, it is helpful to know that a large number of cases are reversed on appeal.  That is, our appellate courts decide that the trial judge was all wrong in their decision and reversed that trial judge's interpretation of the law.

In summary, the law is uncertain even when the facts are agreed.  If the facts are in dispute the outcome of the case is even more uncertain.

So how does a layman make decisions in a world in which the law is so uncertain?  Unfortunately, the best that a layman can do is to retain the services of a good lawyer whom they trust and to realistically analyze the situation with the guidance and counsel of the lawyer and try to exercise good common sense and make decisions upon the lawyer's advice.  

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