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Top 10 Facts About Attorneys That You May Not Know

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There are many misconceptions and stereotypes about lawyers and what attorneys do. If you become involved in a legal dispute and need to hire a lawyer, you should be sure you are educated about what attorneys really do. Read on for the top 10 facts about attorneys that you may not know.

  1. Not all attorneys go to court. While the popular media is bombarded with images of attorneys in courtrooms, not all attorneys actually appear before judges. Some attorneys - called transactional attorneys - work behind the scenes, writing contracts and doing other legal work that doesn't ever involve going to court.
  2. Attorneys are officers of the court. When an attorney graduates from law school, he is not yet licensed to practice law. He first must pass the bar exam and then be sworn in as an officer of the court to uphold the duties of that office.
  3. Lawyers have to pass a moral character test. Regardless of the lawyer jokes you may here, lawyers are - as a whole - very honest and moral people. In fact, they have to be... when an attorney takes the bar exam in most states, he must undergo a moral character and background check before he is eligible to do so.
  4. Lawyers have their own code of ethics. Called the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, attorneys are bound to abide by ethical rules designed to ensure the protection of clients.
  5. Your lawyer cannot disclose what you tell him - even if you confess to a crime. Attorney-client privilege is designed to ensure that you are candid with your lawyer. Under most circumstances, your lawyer cannot tell anyone - a judge, the police, a jury or your family members - what you tell him in confidence.
  6. Privilege isn't absolute. Although lawyers can't tell anyone what you have told them in the vast majority of circumstances, there are a few very limited exceptions. If, for example, you tell an attorney about your intent to cause someone else immediate harm and your attorney believes you seriously intend to commit that harm, the attorney has an obligation to disclose what you are planning and try to stop you.
  7. Some lawyers will work on a contingent basis. Certain types of attorneys - mainly in the personal injury and torts fields - will agree to work and get paid only if you win. This is called a contingency fee arrangement and allows you to sue when someone hurts you, even if you don't have the money to pay up front.
  8. Lawyers play an important role in defending the US Constitution. If a law is passed that is unconstitutional, the Supreme Court can only declare it as such if there is a court case in front of them. Constitutional lawyers who represent a plaintiff who has been wronged by the unconstitutional law thus play a very important role in making sure the Supreme Court gets to evaluate a law for fairness and constitutionality,
  9. Lawyers owe their clients the highest duty of loyalty. This duty is called a fiduciary duty and means that a lawyer must not allow his own interests - or any other party's interests - to interfere with his representation of his client.
  10. A lawyer cannot represent multiple clients whose interests conflict - even on different cases. If you are suing Company A and then Company A sues company B, your lawyer cannot represent Company A in that second lawsuit, even though you aren't involved, because that would be a conflict of interest.

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