Can an attorney ethically advise strategic default?

If you spend any time on real estate Web sites you’ll encounter commenters who purport to be attorneys and advise other commenters to stop paying their mortgages, spend part of the “savings” hiring an attorney to “drag out” the resulting foreclosure proceedings – and enjoy the rest of the savings.

It’s been some time since I practiced law, but when I did it was commonly understood that an attorney could not ethically advise a client to breach a valid contract the client had willingly entered into. He could, of course, advise a client fully of the consequences of a breach.

Have an attorney’s ethical obligations to his clients changed? I don’t have a firm answer to that question, but I’m not inclined to spend time researching it, because I suspect they haven’t.

Here’s what I do know for certain. If I hired an attorney who subsequently advised me to stop paying my mortgage without offering a solid legal basis for doing so, I’d immediately fire that attorney and seek out one I considered more trustworthy.

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