COMMON SENSE THINGS CLIENTS MUST KNOW
ABOUT THE LEGAL SYSTEM
- THERE IS NO GUARANTEE OF OUTCOME: Legal proceedings are fraught with a large number of variables affecting the outcome of any case. Strange things can happen for no logical reason.
- YOU ARE NOT ALWAYS RIGHT: Clients often believe that they are a good and honorable person, and therefore they should and will win. You may be good and honorable, but that doesn’t mean everyone else sees you that way, agrees with your interpretation of facts, or agrees with your position in a case, including the judge. “. . . [H]onest people are not always right—do not always know the answer—and do not always have to comoment on every situation.” Steve Clark, former Attorney General for Arkansas.
- THERE ARE WINNERS AND LOSERS: Everyone doesn’t win, and more often than not neither side is going to get ALL that they want. Usually, both sides will get some of what you want. Many men and women incorrectly believe that if they go to court before a judge, they will somehow be exonerated by the judge, who will condemn the other spouse for his or her behavior over the years. The judge will thus be their instrument of revenge. This belief makes a trial appealing to many people. However, the judge is not going to exonerate anyone. The judge is there to make a fair and impartial ruling as best as he or she can do.
- YOU HAVE OBLIGATIONS AS A CLIENT: Clients often want to blame their attorney, the judge, or others, despite all of the above cautions. However, you, as the client, have your own obligation to timely respond to your attorney, keep the attorney informed of your current contact information, respond with requested information in a timely basis, and otherwise do your part. Remember, never lie to your attorney.
- PAY YOUR BILL: Lawyers have families too, and running a law office is enormously expensive. If you aren’t timely paying your bill then your case may not get the attention it needs, that is, more attention will be given to clients who do pay their bill. If you walk off without paying your bill you are stealing. Failure to pay other costs timely, such as money for filing fees, money to custody evaluators, costs for depositions and other discovery work, and other such costs will only delay your case.
- COMMUNICATIONS WITH CLIENTS: Attorneys today receive communications through more means than he can often respond to: e-mails, regular mail, faxes, telephone calls, personal visits, and the like. It is not possible to respond to all of these, and it may take your attorney several days to get back to you at times. Keep in mind that most communication you receive from your attorney will be written.
- THE LEGAL SYSTEM IS SLOW: A contested case will almost always take some months to complete. It takes time to schedule hearings, and then get them heard. There are other people involved, such as other attorneys, their client(s), judges, commissioners, court personnel, all of whom need to be accommodated. Also, and always remember this, the legal system is by its nature slow and deliberative.
- CONTINUATION OF HEARINGS: For tactical, ethical, personal, and other considerations, your attorney may need to continue a hearing, even if you don’t like it.
- IT DOESNT DO ANY GOOD TO HIRE AN ATTORNEY IF YOU WON’T LISTEN TO HIM: A good attorney will give you the best advice he can. A good attorney should go along with his client’s decisions. Any settlement is, in the end, up to you. If you make a bad deal then you can only blame yourself. Legal opinions from your parents, your second cousin who went through a similar case 10 years ago, a co-worker who got this or that out of their case, etc. is not all that reliable, so don’t be surprised if your attorney thinks it is rubbish.
- YOUR BILL:
(a) Tell your lawyer what you can afford to spend. If you can’t incur fees beyond what you can afford don’t ask for them. If there is a dollar limit, inform your attorney of this limit so he or she can discuss with you priorities and what can be done for that amount of money.
- Clients sometimes complain they don’t understand the reason for a charge. It’s on your bill. You need to read your bill. Everything is itemized. If you still have a question, then call.
- Clients will complain that they don’t know where their retainer went so quickly, but ignore the fact that they have made countless calls or written multiple e-mails to their attorneys, haven’t responded as requested, have come in for numerous visits, etc. Generally attorneys in our office won’t bill you for brief calls, or a quick question, but calls to provide information, obtain advice, ask that papers be drawn up, etc., all cost you money. One of the biggest tasks of an attorney is giving you advice. You get billed for that service. IT IS STRONGLY ADVISED THAT YOU SAVE UP ALL OF YOUR QUESTIONS FOR ONE TELEPHONE CALL/E-MAIL PERIODICALLY IN ORDER TO SAVE YOU MONEY. ALSO, DON’T WORRY ABOUT PROCEDURAL ISSUES HAPPENING IN YOUR CASE UNLESS YOUR ATTORNEY TELLS YOU TO. THE ATTORNEY WILL LET YOU KNOW WHEN SOMETHING NEEDS TO BE DONE, OR THAT YOU DO INDEED NEED TO WORRY. DON’T NEEDLE THE ATTORNEY OR HIS ASSISTANTS FOR CONSTANT UPDATES ON YOUR CASE. WE’LL BE IN CONTACT WHEN THERE’S NEWS ABOUT YOUR CASE.
- Along these same lines, don’t waste your money by asking your attorney to give you psychological support whenever you’re feeling down or depressed unless you can afford it. Unnecessary telephone time sends the legal fees skyrocketing. Don’t call your attorney with every question that comes to mind. Instead, make a list of questions and then ask them in a single telephone call. If the subject requires that you speak to your attorney in private.
- Legal work is very expensive. Don’t get into a case if you can’t afford it. Don’t demand that your attorney seek custody of your children, possession of a business, or other complex issues unless you can afford to pay for the services needed.
- If you use your attorney for “personal counseling,” keep in mind that is costing you.
- There are often things you can do on your own to decrease your bill, such as obtaining information, making copies, contacting people, etc. If you leave these things to your attorney you get charged. You decide how much you feel you can do on your own to decrease your bill.
- Don’t ask to speak to the attorney regarding questions that can be answered by his or her staff.
- Telephone calls and emails: Just because you don’t meet personally with your attorney doesn’t mean the time he spends with you on the phone, etc. with you, is free.
- DON’T EXPECT YOUR LAWYER TO BE A MONSTER: Clients will often demand their attorney be vicious, take no prisoners, be loud and boisterous and in general S.O.B. There are attorneys who behave like this, and the judges and other attorneys know who they are. Attorneys such as this do not serve your interest, and your case can be judged by the manners of your attorney. This behavior in fact can often hurt your case. “Fighting for you” doesn’t mean the attorney must behave like an obnoxious twit. It you think it does, then find someone else to represent you.
- YOU HAVE A FEE AGREEMENT: Read it, especially before you sign it.
- THE ATTORNEY’S STAFF: It’s a good idea to cultivate good relations with your attorney’s staff, including associate attorneys, legal assistants, and secretaries. They help your lawyer put your case together and play a vital role in your entire case.
BY WORKING WITH THE WALL & WALL ATTORNEYS AT LAW YOU AGREE TO THE TERMS SET FORTH ABOVE.