As they say, you don't need an attorney until you need an attorney. And then, more then likely, you aren't really in a great place. Chances are the legal issue is causing some level of worry or anxiety. It's not that often that people need an attorney because they won the lottery or anything like that.
So, what can you do from the start to make sure you are supporting your attorney and your legal matter? We have some tips.
Ask The Questions
You probably have several. So, at the first meeting, whether it be on the phone or in person, be ready to ask all the questions you have. This is not a time to be timid or concerned about how you may look or sound. You are interviewing your attorney as much as they are considering your case. Some questions to be sure to ask:
- Rates and options: There are a few different billing options for clients based on the matter at hand. The fixed hourly rate is the most common, but doesn't work for all matters. There is a fixed rate as well as a contingency. Discuss the options with your attorney. Understand how the billing process will work, when you can expect to receive invoices, and expectations on when payments are due.
- Scope of the engagement: It's one of those things... cases can grow. Perhaps you have a real estate issue. Then, something is uncovered and you now also have a real estate tax issue. That may require a different attorney. Be clear with your attorney as to what their focus is and what will happen if the case grows.
- Point of contact: Many attorneys have paralegal professionals or legal secretaries. Be sure to understand who you should contact with questions and what the expectations are in terms of response time.
This could easily be a bullet point above, but, it's too big for that. In most cases, if a client has an issue at all, it's around communication. Be very clear with your attorney what your expectations are, and what they can do. It doesn't always line up. Remember, your attorney is handling more than one case. And every client wants the same immediate response.
Discuss communication options with your attorney. Phone calls and emails are great tools. Look for an attorney that uses an online platform that gives clients a portal so you can communicate there, keeping all information on your matter in one secure spot. These client portals, like the one from SimpleLaw, gives clients and attorneys the ability to see the same information, 24/7, all in one spot.
Expect Ups and Downs
Every client and attorney would like every matter to be settled quickly and easily without a bump in the road. But it doesn't work like that. Expect some bumps in the road and be prepared to handle them as smoothly as possible. Not all bumps are the same, of course. But set your expectations accordingly. It will not only make the resolution of your legal matter a bit easier to bear, it will also help you keep a strong relationship with your attorney.
Treat Your Attorney with Respect
It goes without saying, but it needs to be said. Treat your attorney as you would like to be treated. Respond as quickly as possible to their questions and requests. Pay invoices on time, or even early. Remember, the relationship goes both ways.
It's never easy when you have an open legal matter. But setting the groundwork, and remembering the golden rule throughout, will not only streamline the resolution of your matter, but make it as stress-free as possible.