Lawyers are learned professionals who have had to undertake intensive professional training programmes to qualify. They are trained to know the law, to advise clients on how to proceed in situations demanding a knowledge of the law and procedure, and to represent clients in actual court cases. Many are also vastly experienced.
When addressing your lawyer, you should try to remain polite and to show a basic respect for his / her professionalism. You will then get the same respect and co-operation in return.
Lawyers will quickly read the signs when they are not being respected, and many may refuse to continue to act for you.
This said, you need not be afraid of your lawyer. Lawyers tend to be reasonable people, and most will make every effort to put you at your ease and to make you feel welcome as a client.
It is as important to trust your lawyer as it is to respect him / her. A rogue lawyer who was dishonest or incompetent in dealing with his / her own clients would rapidly forfeit professional reputation.
If you are not sure about which lawyer to invest your trust in to begin with, consider word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and colleagues whose judgement you trust. Professional accreditations may also offer objective quality assurance, a good example being Lexcel, the Legal Practice Quality Mark of the Law Society, an accreditation held by Battrick Clark.
Trusting in qualified lawyers and their professional integrity is essential to striking up a co-operative and good working relationship with them which will result in them giving their very best on your behalf.
You are hiring your lawyer to represent you in the best possible light, but it is important that you represent yourself and the facts of your case truthfully so that your lawyer has the best possible basis for building a case.
If you lie, tell inconsistent stories, or fail to disclose important information or documents that may be relevant to your case, then not only will this likely damage your credibility in any eventual court proceedings, but it will also impair your lawyer’s ability to build and argue a persuasive and coherent case on your behalf.
The law is based on the treatment of facts. Feelings, intuitions and emotions are irrelevant in law unless they can be justified by facts. You should try to focus your discussion as much as possible on the facts of the case, and to disclose them in as much detail as may be needed to give your lawyer and (if applicable) the eventual court judge a clear picture .
Calmly and rationally
Try to stay calm and rational in your interactions with your lawyer. Exercising control of strong emotions instead of impulsively displaying them is advisable. They could be disruptive to your professional relationship.
While lawyers should be reasonably understanding of clients feeling upset and aggrieved as a normal human response to the situations and allegations that their cases are based upon, showing how upset you are about something or someone cannot help you to win a case; and expressing anger may make you difficult and unpleasant for your lawyer to deal with, whether the anger is formally directed at him / her or at a third party.
Lawyers often work to very tight deadlines, and sometimes need answers from you or documents signed at short notice.
- Make sure you are easy to contact by a variety of means, ideally including telephone, email and post.
- Be prepared to put in the time to respond to your lawyer when called for. That way, you will ensure that you are not the cause of missed deadlines in the court or severely disrupted work schedules for your lawyer, and matters will continue to run smoothly.
- Try to settle your accounts with your lawyer in good time, to the schedule you have agreed in advance. Making late and unreliable payments will make you less easy to work with as a client, and could dent the trust that is the foundation of your successful working relationship with your lawyer.
Patiently and understandingly
Lawyers typically have many demands on their time from simultaneous ongoing cases, and numerous clients on their books. When your lawyer does not respond to you in a quick time-frame, be patient and understanding – he / she is almost certainly working on another case that requires more urgent attention than yours. A competent lawyer will not forget what needs to be done by what date for each client, but will have everything scheduled in advance. If you must send a reminder, keep it short and to the point, and don’t forget to stay courteous.
Co-operatively and pro-actively
To support your case, you may need to produce written documentation and other evidence that only you have access to. Taking a co-operative approach in the preparation of evidence increases your chances of achieving your desired outcome.
Try to remember that your lawyer is your learned professional assistant in your path to justice, but you can also help your own cause by doing some of the background work. So be pro-active, not passive, and ask questions when you are uncertain about something.
Receptively and responsively
You are consulting your lawyer for professional advice and assistance. Don’t forget to listen to the instructions and advice you receive, and respond to them as called for.
On occasion, this may mean electing not to produce evidence or testimony that you feel to be relevant or important, because your lawyer advises you that it will not in fact help your case and might impede it.
Your lawyer is there to help you and to guide you through murky and turbulent legal waters in order to achieve the best possible outcome. Provided that you do your bit too when called for, you will have no cause for concern. We wish you a long and happy working relationship with the lawyer of your choice.