Tips to Help You Build a Successful Relationship With Your Lawyer/Potential Lawyer.
People looking for lawyers are often stressed, confused and afraid that someone may try to take advantage of them. Because of this, sometimes potential clients say or do things that concern the lawyer they’re talking with. Lawyers sometimes refer to these concerning actions from potential clients as ‘red flags’ – and if a potential client raises too many red flags, that may even result in the lawyer deciding that they are not the right person to help with the situation.
To help avoid this type of situation, I’ve compiled the list of tips below is a list of tips to help you build a successful relationship with your lawyer/potential lawyer. Keep these tips in mind during your interactions, and when your case ends you will hopefully feel good about your experience with the lawyer/client relationship.
Many of these tips have to deal with expectations. It is absolutely ok to ask questions of your lawyer but you should keep an open mind when entering into a new relationship with a lawyer.
- Only take legal advice from your lawyer. Sometimes other professionals will (wrongfully) give folks legal advice. While they may mean well, the law says only a lawyer can give legal advice. Do not take legal advice from Realtors, CPAs or other professionals.
- Do not compare your bankruptcy (or other legal situation) to a friend or family member’s bankruptcy. Every case is unique based on the person’s facts. The laws and how the laws are interpreted can change. Just because something did or didn’t happen in a friend or family member’s case does not mean it will or will not happen in your case.
- Not everything you read on the internet is true. There are many forums giving legal advice and do–it–yourself legal advice. Laws vary from state to state and even vary depending on what part of a state you live in.
- Principles are expensive. As an example, some folks may admit that they owe a debt but they dispute a very small percentage of a debt. When people want to make a creditor ‘pay,’ that’s a huge red flag and in reality, it may cost you more money to prove the point than to let go of the principle and focus on resolving the larger issue at hand.
- Look for ways to move forward and not point fingers at others. As another example, some folks are outraged that the bank refused to work with them when they fell behind on payments. Blaming the bank does not help resolve your current situation.
- Accept the situation you are in. Disbelief and stress come with the territory, but failing to be able to discuss the situation and only focusing on how unfair you feel the situation is can be a problem. It is difficult for a lawyer to help you if you cannot have an ongoing discussion about your situation.
- If you are confused, ask your lawyer (not the internet, family or another lawyer). First, non-lawyers cannot give legal advice. Second, it can really hamper the attorney/client relationship when a client has questions and is asking those questions of everyone but the lawyer. Remember, your lawyer is an expert and you’re paying them to help you.
- Give your lawyer a chance to return your telephone call or e-mail. Lawyers are people, too. My firm strives to return calls the same or the next business day. Do not expect that your lawyer can return every call and e-mail within minutes. The lawyer and the lawyer’s staff may be gone for the day, in a meeting with other clients or in court.
- Actively listen to what your lawyer tells you. While it may be difficult to retain everything a lawyer says during an hour–long consultation or meeting, it is important to hear the lawyer’s words, process what they are saying and ask any questions you may have. I also encourage clients to take notes during meetings.
- At the initial consultation, create your questions based on what the lawyer tells you. It is ok to bring questions with you, but the lawyer may answer most or all of them during the consultation.