1. DO NOT spend 30 minutes providing “background” for whats going on in your case. Believe it or not, most lawyers with even a little experience will focus right on in the major issues to figure out if you have a case, what kind of case, if they can help and the type of fee arrangements they can offer. Most of the “important” things related by clients have little to do with the actual legal issues presented.
2. DO NOT keep interrupting the lawyer as he is providing you advise or information, even if you disagree or he is mistaken some how. WAIT until he is done and then point out any issues or ask additional questions. Remember, you can to him for advise and if you do the talking, you either dont need the lawyer or your not taking advantage of gettin information from likely the most knowledgable person in the room about your legal issue.
3. DO NOT forget all you important papers “at home” and expect the lawyer to provide you legal advice about the contract terms “in general”. Treat an office conference, especially a FREE one, like the important opportunity it is. More importantly, if you show the lawyer that you are not reliable or responsible, in many instances they will increase thier retainers accordingly to avoid chasing you down for fees or to account for additional efforts baby sitting you in regard to gettin documents or responses to litigation, etc.
4. DO NOT make appointments with lawyers to “ask about an issue for a freind”. Beyond being a waste of everyone’s times, there is often no attorney client privilege for such conferences since your not expecting to be a client, and this coul actually hurt the real person who might ultimately be a client.
5. DO NOT simply “no show” or cancel free consultations at the last minute. Many lawyers offer free consultations as a courtesy to help people decide whether they need laywers and how to hire them in regard to thier cases, and rely upon people actually showing up on time and prepared. By simply being “discourteous” and failing to show up or cancel well in advance, you not only deny others access to that lawyer who may need help, but also discourage lawyers from providing this valuable service to others. Any questions? Watch how fast your treating doctors charge you for no-show appoinment and refer patients to collections over $50.00 no show fees, and count how many physicians offer “free exams” to see whats wrong with you and charge only for what they actually do to help. Its a short list I promise.
6. DO NOT hold back information, especially bad things, from your lawyer. We are there to help. There is NOTHING worse than not being told of bad issues by our clients only to be blind sided by the other side who will disclose it as the worst possibel time. Ironically, many things clients think are terrible can be dealt with by the lawyers if they actually have notice of them.
7. DO NOT just sign the contracts and papers given to you by a lawyer, because you “trust them.” A good lawyer will encourage you to read all of the papers and ask any questions you may have.
8. DO NOT fail to read the retention contracts, documents and authorization copies given to you by the lawyer. They are provided so you understand exactly what your financial arrangment is, who gets paid what, when and how. There is nothing more frustrating for everyone, and usually at the end of a case when a settlement occurs, when a client claims a different understanding of how the attorney is paid. It is even more frustrating for the lawyer to be confronted with the ‘ol “if I would have read that part I never woud have agreed” after a settlement or some other point where the lawyer may feel like the client is trying to take manufacture a complaint to “re-negotiate” fees. If you don’t understand how the fees work, ask for clarification up front so there is no misunderstanding.
9. DO NOT make decisions about prosecuting a case, especially when you are paying a retainer, that are unrealisitic or based on future plans or emotions. One of the most common complaints I hear about other lawers is that “they took all my money and didnt do anything for two years of litigation and then withdrew from the case for no reason”. If I had a dollar for everytime it actually was revealed that the client simply got involved in litigation they couldn’t afford to fund, this blog would be from my I-PAD in the carribean. A good lawyer is never personally invested in your case and it is important to undertsand that his actual interest, regardless of what his billboards and TV commercials may say, is in gettin paid for the service he or she performs. As you could not imagine working for your current job for 2 years without pay, but a bunch of promises, expecting lawyers to work that way because you really need thier help, is equally unrealistic.
10. DO NOT hire your freind or family lawyer to represent you. Its a no win situation for all concerned and usually leads to hard feelings and broken relationships.