Advice on working with an attorney
Many people assume an attorney is all-powerful or can work some kind of legal
magic, just by dint of being an attorney. The reality is quite different. Look
in your own line of work, and what do you see? People of differing abilities and
work ethics, for one thing. And how many problems come up that even your best
people have difficulty solving? How many projects go bad?
An attorney is just another person working in a specific field. It happens to
be law. That is, some area of law. An attorney who doesn't have significant
experience and/or training in the area of law that concerns you probably isn't
going to do as well as one who does. There are so many "gotchas" in law, it
borders on the absurd.
Your attorney isn't your buddy. Your attorney is a contractor you pay, and
pay well. Usually by the hour. Don't waste your attorney's time with complaining
or by seeking explanations of things you can look up on your own.
Your attorney's success is contingent upon such factors as:
- Your accuracy. Don't guess at the answers your attorney needs. Look
things up. If your attorney asks how much you made last year, for example,
produce your tax return rather than flip a number off the top of your head.
- How honest you are. Lying to your attorney is generally a dumb approach.
It can get your attorney into trouble and is likely to undermine your case.
- How open you are. Hiding information from your attorney, even if you
think it's irrelevant can easily result in a courtroom surprise that
destroys any chance of winning your case.
- Your ability to stay out of trouble. Getting arrested, even on some
unrelated charge, while your case is pending makes extra trouble for your
attorney to handle.
- How well you articulate your side of the story. You don't need to be a
polished speaker, but you do need to be concise and direct.
- Make statements about the other person's motivations. Your attorney
can't prove such allegations, so they are worthless.
- Produce forged documentation for your attorney to use. This creates a
landmine that can not only blow up your case, but result in (further)
- Do or say anything that wastes your attorney's time.
- Yell at your attorney.
- Make disparaging remarks about the other side's attorney or anyone else
involved in the case.
- Call your attorney for daily progress reports. This just wastes time.
- Text your attorney, unless told this is OK.
- Send your attorney long e-mails.
- Send your attorney paper, unless told this is preferable. Paper must be
scanned and then shredded, creating extra work.
- Outline what you think the other person's viewpoint is. This will help
you understand the whole case, and will show your attorney you seek this
- Provide any evidence you can locate or produce. This includes e-mails,
photos, and receipts. Ask your attorney what evidence will help your case,
and see about getting it.
- Think about how you can save your attorney time. Offer to do research,
for example. "How about if I check that out for you?" Keep any reports to
the attorney accurate and objective.
- Treat your attorney with respect at all times.
- Behave in a professional manner. How you behave will affect how others
perceive you, and that does affect the outcome of your case.
- If you have the OK to text your attorney, do this only rarely and when
there is a good reason for it.
- E-mail your attorney with status updates or requests for information.
- Keep e-mail messages brief and limited to that which is most important
- Convert paper to PDF and e-mail necessary documents to your attorney.
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