Working With A Lawyer

The best thing you can do to help resolve your legal matter — and the most important responsibility you have in the lawyer-client relationship — is to cooperate fully with your lawyer. There is only so much a lawyer can do for you without your cooperation. First and foremost, this means giving truthful and accurate information to your lawyer, even if the facts are not favorable to you. Your lawyer cannot do the best job possible for you if the information you give is incomplete or inaccurate.

Be direct with your lawyer about your expectations for the case – what you feel a successful outcome would look like. Ask your lawyer what the possible outcomes are and try to get a rough estimate of how long each outcome might take. Although it is unlikely that your lawyer will be able to give you an exact number, the lawyer can probably tell you how long similar cases have taken in the past. Speak up if you disagree or do not understand. Be clear with the lawyer if your idea of a successful outcome does not match any of the possible outcomes your lawyer presented. It is best to get on the same page as your lawyer early on to avoid problems later.

Ask your lawyer to keep you informed about the progress of your case or legal issue, but try not to badger your lawyer by emailing, telephoning or texting repeatedly. Most of the time legal matters move more slowly than you or your lawyer would like. Sometimes things are slow because the courts are involved, or it may be because the lawyer or party on the other side is still deciding how to respond. If your lawyer does not get back to you as quickly as you would like, try to keep in mind that, although your case may be the most important thing happening in your life at the moment, your lawyer is trying to balance your case with the other cases that also demand attention. When your lawyer is able to respond to you, s/he should answer your questions promptly and clearly.

You can request copies of important letters and documents your lawyer prepares or files on your behalf. It is best to request this at the beginning of your relationship with your lawyer. This helps avoid any surprises later. You should also make sure you understand the documents, especially those you sign. If you do not understand them, ask your lawyer to explain the documents before you sign them.

Your lawyer is there to advise and counsel you, and you should follow any agreed-upon advice. Your lawyer should consult with you on all major decisions about your case, such as whether to settle your case without going to court and for how much.

If you lose confidence in your lawyer’s expertise and skills, you should talk to your lawyer about this right away, and speak with him/her directly. If you cannot resolve these issues, then you may want to think about getting another lawyer. However, changing attorneys can delay your case, increase the amount you pay in legal fees, and cause other problems. You can learn more about how to handle problems with your lawyer here.

Legal Editor: Jill A. Kupferberg, April 2016

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service with the help and assistance of volunteer legal editors, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or to substitute for the advice of a lawyer.

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