Forward Thinking Family Law Since 1994

Creating An Effective Partnership with Your Attorney

            At the beginning of a case, it’s difficult to know how much to communicate with your attorney and when.  Attorneys are expensive, so you want to use their services wisely.  Here are some tips.

            If your attorney provided you with a “To Do” list, keep her informed of what you have accomplished and provide the documentation you have obtained.  The lawyer and her staff will be keeping a checklist of information they need from you.  They will add the information you supply to your file.

            If there are any changes in your situation, let the attorney know.  If you have questions about what you should do to meet the change in circumstances, arrange a conference or a phone call with the attorney to review your options and to develop a plan.  There are some major decisions, such as leaving the marital home, that you should discuss with your attorney before you leave.  If you have already figured out a plan, let the attorney’s office know.

            Be sure to notify them promptly of changes in your residential address, email address, phone numbers, or employment.  If they cannot get hold of you, everyone will be frustrated.

            For maximum efficiency, draft an email to your attorney and tell her what you wish to discuss.  This helps you organize your thoughts before you start the call or conference.  It also helps your attorney to review your file and organize her thoughts.  Sometimes, your questions can be answered using an email response.          

            This is a stressful time for you.  Some clients worry when they receive an email or other correspondence from their attorney and delay or fail to open the communication.  This is decidedly a bad idea.  When the attorney sends you information, it’s important.  You need to stay current on what is happening with your case.  Pay particular attention to emails that establish dates or notify you of changes in dates.  Your attorney’s office is trying to schedule appointments at times that are convenient for you.  If they have to chase you down, they will spend needless time.  If the attorney or her assistant spends time pursuing you, you may be charged for the time it takes.  This will also annoy the attorney and staff.  Stay current on reviewing your emails and respond promptly.

            These days, many lawyers scan correspondence that they receive from the court or the opposing party and send it to you electronically.  Often a response from you will be needed.  Help your attorney represent you by reviewing the emails and answering them.

            A good way to deal with your stress is to get professional mental health assistance.  If your attorney has recommended that you work with a counselor, heed that advice.  It doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you.  It means that by discussing your situation, your uncertainties, fears, disappointments, grief and anger with a counselor, you will be effectively dealing with difficult issues.  Your attorney and her staff can help you to a degree.  But their primary training is “the law,” not providing counseling on emotional issues.  You will need to deal with your emotions to resolve this case.  It is best to get professional help from people who are specifically trained to help you deal with your emotions.  If you have some major problems during your case, your attorney may want to confer with your counselor to ensure you are receiving comprehensive, coordinated advice.  You should provide them both with releases to permit them to communicate.  A three way meeting with the therapist, attorney and you may be a good idea.

            If you are uncertain about whether you need to communicate with your attorney, think about it for a day or two.  If you are still uncertain, send them an email and ask for their advice.

            Attorneys and their staff want to help you feel in control as your case progresses.  This requires that you communicate effectively with your attorney and that she communicates effectively with you.  If you find that your styles do not match, raise that with your attorney and attempt to resolve it as soon as you perceive this to be a problem.  Hopefully, your attorney will do the same.  Finding an effective rhythm is essential to you forming a team and for you to feel that you had an effective partner in resolving your case.

 

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