Working with a Lawyer: The role of a criminal lawyer is to be your advocate during your case. They will try to ensure that evidence supporting you is properly considered while trying to find discrepancies in the Crown’s evidence. There has to be a relationship of trust between client and attorney and a willingness for you to disclose all information about what led to the arrest. Legal counsel should be able to put legal terminology into layman’s terms so you understand the process. And while lawyers should be cognizant of the emotional state you are in, they have to maintain a business relationship.
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The Lawyer-Client Relationship
It is a criminal lawyer’s responsibility to ensure you are treated fairly by the court. This will be a business relationship where both sides benefit if you each make efforts to work together. Lawyers realize being charged with a crime is stressful for the accused. While lawyers will be supportive of how you are feeling, they are not there to provide a shoulder to cry on. Instead, they deal with facts and evidence to build the strongest defence possible.
What Do I Bring When Meeting a Lawyer?
After you have agreed to retain a lawyer, it’s essential to provide them with the information they need to build a defence. Generally speaking, that includes:
- A printed or electronic file of your contact information, including your full legal name and any other names you go by, your address, phone number(s) and email address.
- The names and contact information of other people who may be relevant to your defence. That could include witnesses, doctors and police.
- An account of the circumstances that led to the charge, including a timeline of events.
- Any documents that relate to your legal matter, such as medical reports.
- Legal Aid clients should bring a Legal Aid Certificate to their first meeting.
- Any questions you have about what lies ahead of you.
- An open mind. Many people have never dealt with the justice system, so be receptive to what the lawyer tells you.
Can I Ask my Lawyer to Lie For Me?
Lawyers are sworn to uphold the integrity of the profession and the administration of justice. They must always behave respectfully as court officers in both their private and professional lives, and they will face legal sanctions if they knowingly provide false information to the court.
As the Law Society of Ontario (LSO) notes, lawyers shall not “knowingly attempt to deceive a tribunal or influence the course of justice by offering false evidence, misstating facts or law, presenting or relying upon a false or deceptive affidavit, suppressing what ought to be disclosed, or otherwise assisting in any fraud, crime, or illegal conduct."
Communication and Trust Are Important
No one wants the shame of a criminal conviction, or worse, to be sent to jail and separated from your friends and family. People facing their first criminal charge will be incredibly anxious when they meet with their lawyer.
As you meet to discuss your case, a bond of trust should develop. As you talk about the circumstances that led up to your charge, you may have to disclose information you would rather keep private. Sharing of information is necessary for your lawyer to build a viable defence. You can rest assured that what you say to them will never leave your meeting (solicitor-client privilege) unless you give your lawyer permission to share it with others.
Ask your lawyer to provide an educated guess about what could lie ahead. Drawing on their experience and their knowledge of the law and the court system, your lawyer should be able to outline what may happen with your case, though no one can guarantee a judicial outcome.
What if I Don’t Understand Legal Lingo?
The judicial process is steeped in jargon that may seem obscure to some. A good criminal lawyer will take the time to clearly communicate with clients about the legal issues they are facing, in layman’s terms. This should give you confidence in how they are handling your case.
How Can I Help My Case?
There are many ways clients can effectively work with their solicitor. The first is to be forthright about the details of the incident that led to the criminal charge. Don’t withhold information that may look bad on you. Provide your lawyer with a full picture of what happened so t no surprises emerge later in court.
As the case progresses, your lawyer may request additional information from you. Respond promptly to any additional queries as that will allow your lawyer to represent you more efficiently. Always treat your lawyer with respect and expect the same in return. They are professionals working on your behalf. If the relationship becomes acrimonious, neither side will benefit.