Lawyers are like all other professionals who try to help-you-help-yourself; they can only do so much without your clear direction.
It takes teamwork.
Follow these rules to get the best out of your lawyer:
Create a folder of all relevant legal documents. For example if you want to sell your home, find your title deed and mortgage papers. If you have an event related incident, write down a clear, comprehensive story of your situation; everything that took place, from start to finish, in chronological order. Don’t dump an overload of scattered information onto your lawyer to sort out.
Do Not Make Your Lawyer Guess
Be clear about what you want to achieve. Tell your lawyer what outcome you hope for so that they can advise you appropriately and help you understand all of your options and all possible outcomes.
You and your lawyer are on the same team. All information you share is confidential and your lawyer cannot share it with anyone else; unless you give them explicit permission to do so. If you omit relevant facts that may feel embarrassing or add fictitious information to your story, it will hurt you in the end. Be prepared to explain everything to your lawyer—the good and the bad.
It will allow you to ask better questions and assimilate expert advice more effectively. If you're confused by legal jargon, ask for clarification. The law can get confusing, and this is not the time to guess at meanings or pretend to understand legalese. A good lawyer prefers well-informed clients who take ownership of their legal well-being. It’s both your and your lawyer’s job to fully comprehend your legal situation.
Keep Your Lawyer Informed
Things are bound to change. When they do, it’s imperative to provide an update. Each small detail or development can dramatically change your legal situation—for better or for worse. As much as possible put these things in writing so there is a trail of information for both you and your lawyer.
Make Sure Your Lawyer Knows How To Reach You
If your contact information changes; tell your lawyer right away. If you spend most of your days in meetings unable to take calls; tell your lawyer to text you if something urgent transpires. Some legal situations may take a longer time to resolve so it’s best to keep in contact with your lawyer as new relevant updates pop up.
You will get the most cost-efficient result from your lawyer by following through. For example, if you take two months to respond to your lawyer’s request, your lawyer will then have to review your file to get back up to speed. This takes additional time and results in larger fees.
Be Up Front About Fees
Discuss billing arrangements up front. Lengthy cases may require you to make interim payments so it’s important that your lawyer understands your financial circumstances and that you understand your obligations; this will ensure work on your matter can continue without interruption. Review your bills and ask questions if you need to – a tight feedback loop between the work done and the costs incurred will help you know if you are spending your lawyer’s time wisely.
In the end remember that you are purchasing expertise by the hour. You will pay the same amount for 30 minutes, whether your lawyer is drafting a document, or calling you to remind you to send the documents that you said you would. Following these rules will help set the stage to get the best from your lawyer from the very beginning.
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