Generally, a client’s obligations include: truthfulness; thoroughness; cooperation; and timely payment of lawyer’s fees and costs. Understanding that your lawyer is bound by attorney-client confidentiality, you should strive to be as truthful and thorough as possible with him/her about your case. The more your lawyer knows, the better he/she can help you, so this truthful and thorough presentation to your attorney should include both the good and bad aspects of your case. In addition, your attorney requires your cooperation in meeting the requirements imposed by law and the courts; consequently, be prompt and prepared for your meetings and court appearances, and as your lawyer advises you of your responsibilities, strive to meet them fully and on time. Such cooperation could commonly include: collecting all the information your lawyer might need for your case; writing down the names, addresses and telephone numbers of every person involved in your case; collecting any documents related to your case; composing a written summary and timeline of your case facts; advising your lawyer in writing of any changes that will affect his/her ability to contact you; and advising your lawyer in writing of any factual changes that might affect your case. Finally, a client is obliged to pay the lawyer’s fees and costs on time. If you are unable to pay fees and costs as billed or if you believe the bill contains a mistaken or unauthorized charge, contact your lawyer as soon as possible to solve the problem. Failing to resolve the problem and/or pay your bill might entitle your lawyer to stop working and/or completely withdraw from your case.
Beyond the general obligations, there are additional measures you can take to assist your lawyer in presenting the best possible case while minimizing fees and costs. Those additional measures might include: handling some of the case preparation (such as some of the “leg work,” phone calls and such) that your lawyer feels comfortable having you handle; brainstorming with your lawyer for ways of resolving your case without going to court; scheduling and keeping at least brief monthly meetings with your lawyer – personally or by phone – to keep abreast of your case and find new ways to assist your lawyer in handling your case; writing down questions you want answered by your lawyer during those brief monthly meetings; questioning any action, inaction or document that you don’t understand and repeatedly asking for both the good and bad news about your case; taking notes and keeping a written account of all interactions with your lawyer; requesting and retaining copies of all case documents sent and received by your lawyer; avoiding unnecessary calls to your lawyer. This last measure – avoiding unnecessary calls to your lawyer – bears some further explanation. Your lawyer is an expensive legal expert rather than a trained therapist. If your lawyer listens to your emotional problems and even helps you sort them out, (which a lawyer might be happy to do if being paid hourly), you could then receive a bill from the most expensive therapist you’ve ever met! For the sake of your own bank account, be mindful of your lawyer’s proper role as your legal counselor, not your psychologist. Taking personal responsibility for your case by consistently meeting these client obligations should maximize the likelihood of your case’s success while minimizing fees and costs.
DO’S AND DON’TS
DON’T be intimidated by the process or the people.
DON’T make unnecessary calls to your lawyer.
DO take personal responsibility for your case.
DO be truthful and thorough when discussing your case with your lawyer.
DO cooperate with your lawyer regarding the requirements imposed by law and the courts by:
a. Being prompt and prepared for your meetings and court appearances;
b. Fulfilling the responsibilities articulated by your lawyer fully and on time;
c. Advising your lawyer in writing of any changes that will affect his/her ability to contact you;
d. Advising your lawyer in writing of any factual changes that might affect your case.
DO pay the lawyer’s fees and costs on time.
DO contact your lawyer as soon as possible to resolve any apparent billing mistakes or unauthorized charges.
DO handle some of the case preparation as allowed by your lawyer.
DO brainstorm with your lawyer for ways of resolving your case without going to court.
DO schedule and keep at least brief monthly meetings with your lawyer – personally or by phone.
DO write down questions you want answered by your lawyer during those brief monthly meetings.
DO question any action, inaction or document that you don’t understand.
DO repeatedly ask for both the good and bad news about your case.
DO take notes and keep a written account of all interactions with your lawyer.
DO request and retain copies of all case documents sent and received by your lawyer.
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.