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Ethics and Dishonest Clients

November 20, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm

One of the dangers of practicing law is that, now and again, you get a dishonest client. Your client may be misleading you – and others – about the facts of their case, either through silence or affirmative misstatements. Or they may be telling you one thing and others something else different. You may discover proof of the dishonesty or just suspect it. Client dishonesty raises many ethical issues. What must you do to ensure your client is telling you the truth? What if you discover a client is lying to a court or tribunal? Are you allowed to disclose the dishonesty despite the duty of client confidentiality? Are there degrees of client dishonesty – some acceptable, others not? This program will provide you with a guide to the substantial ethical issues when client dishonesty is discovered or suspected.

Handout Materials will be emailed to you prior to the seminar
1.0 MCLE Credit Hour, including 1 ethics hour


  • Tension between the duty of confidentiality and the duty to be honest in communications
  • Determining whether a client is lying – active v. passive, fact v. opinion, affirmative statements v. silence
  • Unknowing attorney representations on basis of client dishonesty
  • Duties of disclosure and to whom – the tribunal, third parties?
  • Mandatory and permissive withdrawals from a case, including “noisy” withdrawals
  • Discovery of dishonesty in closed matters


Thomas E. Spahn, McGuireWoods, LLP – McLean, Virginia