In yesterday’s blog post we spent a great deal of time going through how to go through the process of hiring a family law attorney to represent you in your divorce. Then, we transitioned into tips and tricks on how to build a strong relationship with your attorney. Today, we will shift gears to provide advice on how you should not behave towards your attorney. Finally, we will get into some advice on how to proceed in a number of different areas in your divorce.
Treat your attorney like (gasp!) a regular person
Behaving with your attorney is like behaving with a neighbor, member of your church of a person at work- be decent, and be honest. Number one- do not lie to your attorney about anything. If possible, don’t lie to anyone about anything but specifically your attorney is someone that you should be up front and honest about everything. I understand that there may be aspects of your case that are not all that pleasant for you to discuss. I also understand that you are tired, and upset and not all that happy in the first place to have to talk to an attorney. With that said your interests (and that of your children) are not served well by you lying to your attorney. Do your part to build a strong attorney-client relationship by being honest- no matter how difficult it may be.
The failure to disclose information to your attorney is akin to lying
Part of honesty is disclosing information and not hiding it from your lawyer. Think of your attorney almost in the same way as a parent when you were a child. If you were in a tight spot growing up you needed to tell your parents about it so that they could help you avoid problems associated with the tight spot you were in. If you tried to go it alone and solve the problem without the help of your parent you were probably just going to make it worse.
The same applies for your attorney-client relationship. If you don’t tell your attorney about the time you were arrested for DUI last year he or she can’t help you minimize the negative impact of that on your case. There are all sorts of bad situations we get ourselves into but ultimately that is part of life. Your spouse probably has a wart or two on their own record to be concerned about. Disclose bad facts early and often so that nothing comes as a shock for your attorney.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
One thing that you can expect if you hire the attorneys with the Law Office of Bryan Fagan to represent you in your divorce is that we will communicate with you as frequently as possible and as your case requires. You need to know what is going on in your case, and we need to get your feedback and instruction in multiple areas.
When your attorney reaches out to you on a subject related to your divorce you need to respond to the email or voicemail message and get back in touch with the lawyer as quickly as possible. We know you’re busy. Newsflash- we are too. We’re working on your case and it cannot move along in the process without your stamp of approval and instruction. The lawyer you hire doesn’t take on the responsibility of decision making in your case. You are the only person in position to tell us how your case should move along. We can give advice on subjects but we can’t make decisions for you.
My goal is to always return emails and phone calls within twenty four hours of receiving them. I think it is reasonable to expect that you as a client can do the same. It may not seem like a big deal but you need to treat correspondence from your attorney as important no matter the subject matter. If you regard any information from your attorney as being important you will not run into this problem.
Take it easy with the phone calls and emails to your attorney
This isn’t me telling you that lawyers don’t like to hear from our clients. That’s not true. In fact, in a contest between those who call all the time and those who never call, I would take the client who calls all the time. Too little communication can doom your case. I think too much conversation can hurt your case as well, however.
First and foremost, you can be more efficient in contacting your attorney by storing up a number of questions and saving them for one phone call. This is opposed to calling your attorney every time a new thought pops into your head. Secondly, every time you call your attorney you are being billed for doing so. Your attorney does not want to drain your retainer or payments on phone calls that absolutely did not need to be made.
Another concern that I as an attorney have when a client calls me multiple times a day is that it either indicates a lack of faith in me as an attorney or indicates that the client doesn’t understand some aspect of their case. I am fine with teaching you about your case. In fact, I feel like it is part of an attorney’s job description to do so. However, if you simply feel like your attorney is not handling your case adequately it may make more sense to hire a new attorney rather than to submit your current attorney to a round of intense phone calls on a daily basis.
Take some of the legwork out of lawyering and help organize your case
I think we have all hired people in various areas of our lives simply to take the burden off of us in that area. For example, my wife and I have an accountant do our taxes each year. Could she and I do the taxes ourselves? Sure- we’ve done them before. However, with two kids at home and nary an accounting degree between us it makes sense to shift the burden of doing our taxes to a professional with our oversight.
What we end up doing is electronically dump a number of documents on our accountant and she goes through them and figures out income, deductions, credits, etc. She does the dirty work for us, we pay her money and she submits our neat and tidy tax return. This is not how a divorce works, however.
In a divorce your attorney is there to give advice and explanation and to make recommendations. However, you are responsible for coming up with your own goals and making the necessary decisions to accomplish those goals. In that spirit, it is best that you do not simply dump your entire life upon your attorney and expect him or her to sort it all out and develop the aforementioned strategy.
My advice is to organize your life, your documents and your thoughts so that you can have a productive conversation or meeting with your attorney on those subjects. Arriving at your attorney’s office the day before discovery is due with a box full of junk for your lawyer to sort through is not a smart move. Begin by becoming better organized and proceed as if your attorney needs all the help he or she can get with your case. This allows you to save your attorney the time necessary to do this for you ( which saves you money) and also allows you to stay up to date and educated on the status of your case. This is what we call a “win-win” in the law business).
A series of “How To’s” will be the topic for tomorrow’s blog post from the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC
Divorce has a number of different areas that require your simultaneous attention. To learn more about those areas please head back to our blog tomorrow in order to get an overview of them.
In the meantime if you have any questions about the subject matter we discussed today or any other in family law please do not hesitate to contact our office. We offer free of charge consultations to the people in our community six days a week. It would be an honor to meet with you and answer your questions.