There is a running joke among lawyers and those that interact with lawyers that no matter what question you ask the answer is always “It depends.” Part of why that joke is so persistent is because it is often right – the initial answer is: “it depends.” That can be frustrating for the person asking the question, and is sometimes even frustrating for the person giving the answer. So, how can you get a straight answer from an attorney? Well … it depends on what you are asking and how you are asking it.
Realize the answer does depend on various things:
“The law” can be quite complicated. While there are general rules and statutes, the nitty gritty of a case often comes down to details which distinguishes one case from another. If everything were cut-and-dry with a solid answer, then there would be no lawsuits. Both sides would be able to look at the situation and come up with the same conclusion, without the need to battle it out in court. The fact that there is a difference of opinion on both sides of an issue is a clear example of why the answer to any given question may depend. When asking a question of your attorney, it is important to realize that reality, and be prepared for there to not be a firm answer for a lot of questions.
One way to try and get a more definitive answer from your attorney is to provide a more specific or narrow question. If the question is broad or general, then the answer could vary widely, based on whatever additional facts may enter in. For example, think of a question that seems straightforward such as “is it legal to punch someone?” It would seem the answer should be “no.” But, the answer to that question actually depends on the various circumstances. Are you a boxer? Are you defending yourself against a legitimate (and equal) threat? Are you reasonably able to safely escape the situation without punching? So, if you want a more specific answer, be prepared to give more specific details when asking the question.
Acknowledge that facts can change the answer:
Because the various facts can affect an answer so greatly, it is important to know that the answer can change. One reason why some lawyers may be hesitant to give a straight answer is because they are afraid that the facts will change or more facts come to light, and then their answer would no longer be valid. By acknowledging to your attorney that the answer is very dependent on other factors and can change, your attorney may be more willing to provide a firmer answer related to the known facts at hand.
If you have legal questions, contact the experienced attorneys at the Goosmann Law Firm, PLC, in our Omaha, Sioux City, Sioux Falls, or offices.