Lawyers

Working With Your Lawyer  

 

Communicate Well And Often

It is important that your lawyer responds promptly to your questions concerning the case. Your lawyer should explain each step of the case, and the strategies to use to achieving a good result for you. There will be times when your case is not active, but when something does happens, your lawyer should explain it to you.

Busy, Busy

There will be times (and they may be frequent) when it will be difficult for you to speak directly with your lawyer. This does not necessarily mean your lawyer is not concerned or responsive. The demands placed on a family lawyer's time can be very consuming, particularly if court appearances and trials have been scheduled.

What Is Prompt?

Lawyers work on more than one case at a time, and your lawyer will not always have control over his or her time. Time is spent to in court, at depositions, in conference, and on the telephone. Don't expect your lawyer to be available immediately each time you call. You should, however, expect your lawyer to respond to your calls promptly.

Your Time Matters, Too

On your side of this relationship, you also are faced with time constraints which demand your attention. You need to make your lawyer aware of these, and they must be taken into account in the management of your case. To minimize problems, the following suggestions will be helpful: 

a.   If you can't meet with your lawyer during normal business hours, make that clear before you hire the lawyer. Remember that your lawyer is a needs free time.

b.   If you expect your lawyer to be available evenings or weekends, say so in advance so that the lawyer can decide whether to take your case under those conditions. If your lawyer is not available to answer your questions, leave your name and telephone number with his or her receptionist, or take advantage of voice-mail messages.

c.   Your lawyer should pick up, or telephone for, these messages on a frequent and regular basis. If not, think about getting another lawyer! If you need to leave a more detailed message, ask for your lawyer's secretary. She often knows as much, if not more at times, than your lawyer!  

What If Your Lawyer Doesn't Respond?

 your lawyer is not being responsive, tell his secretary or receptionist, and he or she is likely to make an extra effort to accelerate the communications between you and your lawyer. Do not be intimidated–and be assertive about your needs. Answers to your questions should be in understandable terms. If the explanation is not clear, you should not be bashful about asking your lawyer to clarify his or her comments.

Correspond/Respond

Your lawyer should send you copies of all materials which are received or sent in your case. Do not hesitate to make that expectation clear from the beginning. When you receive correspondence from your lawyer, read it and respond. Delay in responding to correspondence could be harmful to your case.

Do Not Expect “Answers”

Do not be concerned if your lawyer's advice and opinions are reserved and cautious. There is little that is black and white in divorce law. Judges have a wide range of discretion on most issues, so predicting outcomes is far from a science. The longer a lawyer is in practice, the more willing he or she is to say “I don’t know”. Be wary of lawyers who say at the beginning that they can accurately predict the results. As the case progresses, your lawyer may better be able to give you a range of possible results.

Need a Second Opinion?

Feel absolutely free to consult with another lawyer or lawyers to obtain a second opinion. Your confidence in your lawyer is an important ingredient. Most capable lawyers would welcome second opinions. But, on the other hand, if you are merely looking for another lawyer to agree with your point of view, you may be getting questionable advice. Your Lawyer Should Not Be The Last To Know. It is next to impossible for your lawyer to represent you effectively without knowing everything. Provide your lawyer with all of the information your lawyer requests, plus any other information you think might be relevant. Err on the side of “over-disclosure”.

Scope of Representation

Your lawyer will not routinely handle matters that are beyond the scope of your agreement, particularly if your lawyer specializes. For example, if you need legal assistance in selling your home, preparing your will, or defending against a civil lawsuit, it may be necessary to make specific arrangements with your lawyer, or to retain another lawyer with the appropriate specialization or expertise. Your lawyer cannot guarantee results. The eventual outcome of your divorce depends on a great number of variables, many of which your lawyer cannot control. Your lawyer can pledge his concern and best effort, but no lawyer can guarantee any particular result in a divorce case. Nobody can be sure of the result until it happens. Your lawyer cannot do anything unethical or illegal. If you ask your lawyer to do anything unethical or illegal, your lawyer will refuse. If you insist, your lawyer will withdraw from your case. Examples of forbidden conduct are: encouraging or permitting perjury, hiding assets or income, and in any manner deliberately deceiving the court or the other side. Your lawyer may be reluctant to act against the best interests of your children. A lawyer's first duty is to look out for the client's best interest. Yet divorce lawyers are also concerned about the welfare of the children. Some ethical guidelines encourage lawyers to keep the children's interest in mind. A lawyer may be reluctant to interview your children when handling a custody case, because they do not want to enmesh the children in the dispute any more than is absolutely necessary.

Lawyers and Clients Should Maintain an Appropriate Professional Relationship

Sometimes friendships and even romances develop between lawyers and clients. Many lawyers have close personal friendships with former clients. But because of the intense emotional nature of a divorce, it is usually best for lawyers and clients to defer establishing a social relationship until after the case is over. Romantic relationships are ill-advised, because they are likely to interfere with a lawyer's objectivity and affect a client's expectations.

You Have Not Married Your Lawyer

Your lawyer works for you, not vice versa. If you become uncomfortable with the relationship, don't hesitate to consult with and, if appropriate in your mind, retain a new attorney. The divorce process is difficult enough. A good working relationship with your attorney can make the entire experience mare acceptable and tolerable. If you have difficulties with your lawyer do not hesitate to raise your concerns by discussion or by letter. If your lawyer doesn’t respond, or if the difficulties continue, it's probably time to hire a new lawyer. It is not uncommon that parties switch lawyers during a case. If it happens too frequently, there may be a negative connotation, but that is not a reason to endure bad treatment. If you intend to retain a new lawyer, notify your present lawyer with a simple letter to that effect. Your lawyer is required to turn over all of the papers and to refund the unused portion of your retainer. 

Your Lawyer’s Relationship to Your The Opposing Lawyer

Some clients are put off when their own lawyer treats their spouse’s lawyer with respect and/or friendliness. Notwithstanding their adversarial positions in any case, lawyers for opposing parties must often cooperate in many different respects during the course of a case. If there is personal animosity between opposing lawyers, the interests of their clients may become lost. More often than not, it is to the benefit of their respective clients that the opposing lawyers are mutually respectful. If you have concerns that your lawyer’s own personality is becoming a problem, discuss it with your lawyer.

Benefits from Cooperation And Respect Between The Lawyers

Agreements on certain issues or procedures can simplify a divorce case and save time and money. Lawyers may meet without clients being present to share perspectives on a case, to narrow down the areas of disagreement and to exchange information without the time and delay of formal discovery. Your lawyer should discuss any such meetings, discussions and agreements with you. Your Lawyer may extend certain courtesies or accommodations to your spouse’s lawyer, such as agreeing to extend deadlines and to postpone hearings. You need to be assured that these decisions do not compromise your position, but more often than not, “what goes around, comes around”, and being uncooperative sometimes sets that wheel in motion. If you believe that a concession will compromise your position, discuss it with your lawyer. Remember also, if your lawyer has reputation for being cooperative and reasonable in and around the Courthouse, it affects your lawyer’s credibility with the Court. Your lawyer’s credibility in the Courthouse is, ultimately, your lawyer’s most valuable asset.

You Will Be Hurt If The Lawyers Are Drawn Into An Emotional Fight

Part of a family lawyer’s skill and responsibility is to be able to give you sound and objective advice. If your lawyer becomes emotionally invested in your case, it can provide a helpful motivation, but only to a point. When that point is crossed, the lawyer (and you) run the risk that decisions are being made, and advice is being given, to satisfy the lawyer—not you. If, for example, a lawyer’s combative approach is motivated by anger, your best interests may not be served, and your fees may well be higher.

Dirty Tricks Do Not Help

Your lawyer will be honest with opposing counsel and will expect you to do the same. Concealing information, lying, or in other ways being dishonest or trying to hide behind legal technicalities will almost always hurt your case. Lawyers and judges are angered by conduct which violates the rules requiring full and truthful information. Your case could suffer if you are less than candid. Another reason to do things right is your lawyer's duty to the judicial system. Lawyers have good reasons to obey all the rules that govern their profession. Breaking the rules means losing the respect of judges and other lawyers, and even risking the loss of a license to practice law. Why is the other lawyer being so nasty when my lawyer is being so nice? Lawyers each have individual styles. Some believe they gain an advantage by trying to intimidate the opposition. Others may become overly aggressive, because they believe it is expected by their client. Intimidation may achieve its goals on occasion, but it is relatively rare that it succeeds as a Courtroom tactic. Maintaining a respectful calm in the face of questionable behavior is wore often a better tactic to facilitate settlement or achieve a successful outcome at trial.

 

 

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