Working With Your Attorney Law
Working With Your Attorney
The relationship you have with your attorney is likely to greatly affect the outcome of your legal matter. It is essential to work with an attorney you can trust to prioritize protecting your rights and interests.
Every attorney-client relationship is different, so there is no “right” strategy for all situations. However, this article will help you think through how you should work with your attorney throughout your case.
The most important aspect of a healthy attorney-client relationship is communication. While you will learn about your attorney’s working style during your initial consultation, this is an ongoing relationship until your case concludes. So it is important that you:
- Give your attorney the information and documents they ask for and not keep anything secret
- Share new information related to your case as it comes up
- Ask questions about concepts or developments in your case that you do not understand
- Listen to what your attorney is telling you about your case, whether it is good news or bad news
- Discuss your goals with your case, especially if they change as the process unfolds
- Respond promptly to your attorney when they try to contact you, just as you would expect them to do for you
Good communication between attorney and client will allow you to figure out the best way to work together and build trust.
Your lawyer will take the lead and do the vast majority of the work on your case, but there may be times when your lawyer needs your help (again, this is where good communication is essential). Assisting could include gathering documentation and providing the names and contact information of witnesses.
For the most part, however, the biggest amount of “help” you will provide to your lawyer is by providing as much detail as you can about your situation. Lawyers don’t like surprises, especially from their own clients. Even if you feel like some information is “unhelpful,” tell your lawyer anyway and let them be the judge.
However, some clients may take too active of a role in their case, whether it’s out of a genuine desire to help or an inability to give up control. Recognize that your lawyer does this work for a living and is good at it.
In almost any contested legal matter, it is wise to let your attorney do the talking unless your attorney thinks it’s a good idea for you to speak for yourself.
In situations such as being under criminal investigation, negotiating a personal injury settlement, seeking compensation for wrongful termination, or disputing a contract, you want your attorney to speak on your behalf.
Letting your attorney speak can prevent you from saying something that could be misunderstood or used against you. This is especially important in criminal cases, where your right to remain silent is so important.
If you are making a court appearance, your attorney will discuss with you when you should answer a judge’s questions directly or whether your attorney should speak on your behalf.
Your lawyer is your advocate. This, generally, means that they must protect your rights and best interests while also pursuing an outcome in your case that aligns with your goals. For example, if you want to negotiate a plea deal for a criminal charge, they will do that. If you want to take your case to trial, they will do that as well or refer you to an attorney with better trial skills.
You should never forget, of course, that if your lawyer counsels you to choose another option with how to handle your case, such as accepting a settlement, you should take their professional experience and knowledge into account, even if you disagree.
Your lawyer does not have to do anything illegal on your behalf. If your lawyer knows that you will break the law again, they are professionally and legally obligated to notify the police. Nor is a lawyer obligated to lie on your behalf — the opposite, in fact. Attorneys are required to tell the truth in court at all times.
There are times, such as dealing with real estate or a legal situation in a state you don’t live in, where you might want to use an attorney who does not hold a license in that state. In general, an attorney must be licensed in the state in which he or she represents someone.
There are exceptions in some instances. Your preferred attorney will be able to determine if they are eligible to represent you or if they need to refer you to another experienced, trusted attorney.
There will likely be times when you and your attorney’s definitions of “in your best interests” do not match. Your case and a successful outcome are incredibly personal to you. However, your attorney’s job is to clearly look at the facts free from emotion and help you make informed decisions.
This is where good communication and trust are key. Do not be shy about telling your attorney your thoughts and what your fears are, but also be willing to listen to your attorney’s informed perspective on your case. Consider that your attorney thinking it’s “in your best interest” to accept a plea deal may be preferable than going to trial and potentially spending much more time behind bars.