First things first, if you have an attorney and you are not satisfied, nothing is stopping you from seeking out another, better one unless it is financial. Granted you may bear the expense of another retainer, but that could save you thousands later. In child support. In alimony/spousal support. In court costs and time off work. A good attorney can wrap it up quicker than a bad one. Or worse you have a bad one that doesn’t focus on your case and you get screwed by lack of interest in a wham bam thank ya mam kinda job.
All another attorney will typically have to do is file for a Substitution of Counsel, this keeps it civil because the people talking are attorneys that don’t know each other and don’t have any emotions tied to the case.
I’ll tell you straight away that you cannot walk into an attorney’s office with a chip on your shoulder. Just like with a doctor’s visit, this is the time for total transparency and letting that person in on everything you’re dealing with, related to your case. Tell them honestly, no matter your involvement in whatever, they are not there to judge you and if you get the impression that you’re being judged, don’t hire that one.
A good lawyer will not waste your time, most especially his. They are proud, demanding people, but if they’re good – you will be in the know when something is going on. They will inform you and they expect feedback. You are paying them to convey, and enforce your wishes at times. YOUR WISHES. Within the law.
If you have a family law case, or a divorce you should take the time to sit down and either write out a timeline of events if applicable, or a chronology of some sort to detail the issues you are having and what happened when to deteriorate the situation.
This saves GREAT amounts of time – and it’s information packed so the attorney can get a great understanding of your case quickly. Keep it simple, don’t try to sound like a smarty pants, just use a conversational tone and take care of business writing it all down.
When you go for an initial consultation, you want to give them information, not stories and he said she said bullshit, that wastes your time. Yes, your time. He won’t have time to tell you what your options are if you’re running your mouth with what you think is information. You need to be able to tell your story in five minutes so you can spend the rest of your time listening to what can be done. You can really aide this by having a timeline or chronology or documents explaining your predicament.
Lawyers are paid education. You are paying them to know the law and protect you and your loved ones. This is a time to be VERY interested in the public opinion of this person (look up the state bar or better business bureau or State Board for recommendations and complaints). Do take the time to research it. We’re not talking about tickets.
Another thing, don’t be an asshole. When a lawyer sits down to work for the day, he thinks of what cases he is going to work on by three premises: Where’s the Fire & Who Do I Like & Who Pays Me. By where’s the fire, I mean court dates approaching, deadlines, etc. By who do I like, I mean – who’s not impossible to deal with, or a jerk. And by who pays me, I mean – who pays what’s been agreed to. In addition to that, a lot of attorneys risk their malpractice insurance by keeping clients that don’t pay. That provides a bad premise for insurance.
A good attorney will usually tell you what he’ll charge you after he hears your case. Why? Because he’s been adding figures since you started talking. If it takes you a long time, he’s known for a while but you won’t know what he can do for you.
The questions you need to ask will depend on your situation. But after you tell your story and he tells you what he can do for you, you should have an understanding of the steps that are necessary next. If you don’t understand what’s going to happen, or your confused about what you were told, ask questions, they expect it. Utilize common sense and ask questions that will help you understand better.
For any case usually you want to know how long it will take – that’s hard to answer, but an attorney can average what the law says, with how the local court system works and give you an average amount of time based on that, give or take delays and complications in your case.
Provide useful information, let them know of any upcoming court dates, mediations, pretrial meetings – anything of that nature. Don’t make false accusations, you lose the respect of your lawyer that way and you make them look foolish and they really don’t like that.
The thing you want to keep in mind is to make this almost an informational meeting for both sides, they have to learn about you in a crash course, just like you have to learn about what’s next quickly. You have an advantage, you have already researched that lawyer. You should have anyway.
If you go through an employers recommendation, ask what their requirements are for attorneys in their recommendation list. They should have a minimum time limit for how long attorneys they recommend have been practicing, that’s a good thing because that gives time for the incompetent ones to figure out they suck and they typically quit practicing on their own – but if they don’t by this time they should have a few complaints if they’re bad and you’ll know to avoid them.
Additionally, some attorneys will meet with you after hours, but if they won’t it doesn’t reflect on them or their ability or integrity at all. At the end of the day, that attorney has a family or other things they go to, just like you. So asking them to stay after because “you can’t take off work” or some other excuse doesn’t usually float with them. They have to take time off to deal with personal things too. Respect them as individuals and you’ll find they will really like to work with you. Just don’t ask them to work for free.
Some General Rules of Law:
Don’t contact the judge. EVER!
Before you do anything drastic related to your case, ask your attorney.
Don’t talk to the opposing party if you can avoid it, if you can’t – for sanity’s sake KEEP IT CIVIL.
Don’t call your lawyer several times a day. If you have questions and generally think of lots of them, start writing them down and send them by email if you can.
Keep your mouth shut. Don’t tell people about your case, you involve them as witnesses at that point. Keep it to yourself and those that are in the know.
Definitely find out if the attorney utilizes email for correspondence. This way when you have compiled a list of questions, you can email it and they can answer them one by one, this saves you lots of time because they’re not spending time on the phone, they can multi task and you’ll get more information that way.
Don’t tell a lawyer joke without asking if they like them. My attorney loves them, my boss I’m not sure though – so don’t do that unless you know.
That’s all I can think of to tell you now, if you have questions, please include them in the comments. Keep in mind however, I’m a legal assistant and this is not to be misconstrued or taken as legal advice. You should seek legal counsel as it applies to your situation.
Hope these tips help!