Do You Tell People What to Say?






AS IN, DOES A solicitor tell people what they should say in court and whether they should plead guilty or not?

I get asked this question quite a lot.

The short answer is no.

But people want advice I hear you say.

Indeed they do.

The legal world and the prospect of court is daunting to most people you add.

I completely agree.

So shouldn’t you tell them what they should do?

No, no you should not.

Your job is not to tell them what to say, it is to impart your advice gained and honed from the totality of your experience.

That is what people really want: your benefit of your experience.

Experience is vital, expertise less so.


STUDIES HAVE SHOWN that people consistently value experience over expertise.

This is hardly unusual. Claims of “expertise” and “speciality” are mere advertising puffery in the minds of most people. Such statements are easily disregarded and quite frankly disbelieved. They are regarded as ‘mere claims’. You know that this is true because you disbelieve all claims that you see when you visit websites.

That is the nature of us humans.

We’re a sceptical lot.

Experience is something altogether different. Experience can’t easily be fabricated. You either spent the years doing what you say you did, or you did not. This is easily verifiable. The nebulous concept of ‘expertise’ is less so.

Experience is prized by us precisely because of the perceived cost involved. You can’t easily “invent” experience. Anything that has cost somebody something, is valued by others, no less than themselves.

That wonderful expert of human behaviour and Vice Chairman of Ogilvy UK, Rory Sutherland (pictured above), has found that we humans value experience over expertise. We do this precisely because ‘experience’ has presumably taken years and a lot of money to attain. In our eyes it is therefore perceived as having much greater value that the rather vague concept of ‘expertise’, which is a subjective term and not easily verifiable.


Just because you say that you’re an ‘expert’, doesn’t necessarily mean that you are.

We humans value advice that we’re given from people who have spent a long time attaining it.


What the client really wants -although this may not be clear to them- is an overview of all of the options open to them. It is the solicitor’s experience that can provide those options.

Once possessed of all of the different paths that they can take in a court case, the client can make a choice.

Your job as their solicitor is to carry out your client’s instructions by acting on this choice.


When you do this you don’t need to tell them what to say.

They’ll tell you themselves.

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