Hiring a lawyer is an important step for your case. Once that is complete, you need to make sure your financial investment in your lawyer pays off. After working with clients for over a decade, I created this list of tips to help you handle your case like a pro. Working with your lawyer (instead of for your lawyer) will help your case work efficiently.
Be organized. The best tip for any client is to come to your first meeting organized. The best students in class come to their first day with all their supplies and are ready to learn. Similarly, the best clients come to their first meeting with their lawyer with the documents they need organized. To be the pro client, make copies and keep like documents (such as bank statements) together. Extra credit for a client who brings their copies in a 3 ring binder, tabbed with sections for each set of documents. Bonus – having your documents organized helps keep costs down as staff will not have to waste time digging through and organizing your paperwork.
Know the next action step. To be a pro client, you need to understand what happens next and what the time frame for the action step is. When a client retains me, I provide them with a helpful flowchart of the type of case they have. They can follow along and see where they are in the process and understand where their case is going. If you filed a lawsuit against someone, you should know that there is a thirty-day waiting period while the other person is served and they have an opportunity to respond. A pro client will have a calendar where they can jot helpful dates down and set reminders to follow back around with their attorney after that deadline passes.
Stay in the loop. A pro client will always know what their case status is because they stay in communication with the lawyer’s office. The pro client knows when they need to do something, understands what the deadline for their action step is, and completes their action step within the time-frame provided. In divorce cases, mandatory disclosure needs to be completed within 45 days of the date of filing of the case. I request my clients provide the documents (and I provide a checklist to help) within 30 days of filing of the case. A pro client will understand the 45 day deadline and have the documents to their lawyer well in advance of the lawyer’s requested 30-day deadline. The best way to be a pro client and stay in the loop is to ask questions as to what you need to be doing and what you are waiting for.
Be polite to staff. Pro clients are always polite to staff. Yes, you may be frustrated about your case. At the same time, the staff at the attorney’s office is not the place or the people to take out your frustration. Remember, we are trying to help you. A pro client is responsive to emails and phone calls and generally returns the message within 24-48 hours. A polite client will make staff want to keep them as up to date as possible and make their entire case go smoother.
Keep in contact with your attorney. Your attorney will not call you without some purpose. Because attorneys are either in court or meetings or other appointments, scheduling time with them can be hard. A pro client also understands what needs to be discussed with the attorney and what can be handled through staff. An explanation of issues can be discussed with the legal assistant or the paralegal who are generally in the office more than the attorney. A legal assistant or paralegal are usually able to speak with the attorney in between appointments or meetings. A pro client will relay what they need to the legal assistant or the paralegal who can usually get them answers quickly. A good legal assistant or paralegal will also know if a call with the attorney should be scheduled. If you schedule time to speak with the attorney, make sure to provide a short summary of what you would like to discuss prior to the phone call.