to get the best out of your attorney
needs to know how to use the lawyer's
services and what to focus on to get
the best from him. The following
recommendations can greatly enhance
the effective use of time and
communication between you and your
The First Consultation
When you go in for your first
interview with a lawyer or instruct
him for the first time by phone, fax
or e-mail, you should:
1. Organize your documents –
chronologically (date-wise). An index
or table of contents is also useful.
The index should also give a brief
description of the documents (see the
example below ). Provide him with all
the relevant documents so that he can
prepare your case well.
2. Write your story in a page or two.
Bring it with you or fax or e-mail it.
Cover all the essential matters. It's
best typed but a hand printed document
is acceptable. Your story should be
organized chronologically. This saves
the attorney's time. He no longer has
to take down in a consultation what
you could have written or typed out
beforehand. You use his time
efficiently and save unnecessary fees.
3. Write out any questions you may
have. How long will the case take?
What are my chances of success? What
are the chances of a negotiated
settlement ? (Most civil cases are
4. Consider bringing a friend with you
to the interview. Ask the lawyer
whether this would be appropriate. For
some cases, it's not a good idea.
However, a friend in the interview
could provide moral support.
How to Communicate Effectively with
1. If you change your address, phone
number or e-mail, let him know
2. If he asks you to provide
information or documents, respond
3. If you are going to be away for a
while such as during holidays, inform
4. In many cases the best way to
communicate with the lawyer is through
his secretary. Get to know the
secretary. Lawyers tend to be in and
out of court or in meetings.
Secretaries are always there.
5. Never make a legal decision (eg
whether or not to accept a settlement
offer) without consulting your
6. Don’t phone every day, but don't
hesitate to phone if you want to know
what's going on, either. Consider
whether your phone call is necessary.
Can you save your questions for the
next meeting? Each phone call will use
up your lawyer's time and your money -
his time and advice are his stock in
7. Pay his bills promptly. The clients
that enjoy the best service are
inevitably the best payers. There is a
subtle psychology at work in any
lawyer's brain that tends to give the
rewarding client's file priority in
preference to a client who is
difficult or a non-payer.
8. Should you terminate your lawyer's
services, be the first to tell him.
Don't let him learn of it through
You and Your Lawyer Are A Team
1. Don't think your attorney is
all-knowing and all-capable while you
have nothing to contribute.
2. While your attorney needs to learn
about, and often imagine, what
actually happened in leading up to the
dispute or situation, you have lived
through it. This experience is
invaluable to your attorney. Share it
with him to as great an extent as
possible. Provide the best and fullest
possible information you can. Rather
give him too much than too little.
Don't hesitate to suggest some
strategy or step that he might not
have thought of, so that together you
can come up with best strategies.
3. Try to gain as much of your own
legal information as you can. Use that
information to leverage more
effectively the legal advice from your
attorney. Educating yourself on the
law, allows you to get more out of
your attorney and could enable your
attorney to obtain better results for
you at a lower cost.
4. The more you know about what your
lawyer can do for you, the more
synergistic the relationship. Blogs,
government websites and law firm
websites are full of valuable
information about the law – even
taking out library books. The more
quality legal information you
assimilate, the more fruitful
discussions with your attorney will
be, and the more intelligent your
5. Educating yourself will allow you
to ask better questions and assimilate
expert advice more effectively. Good
attorneys prefer well-informed clients
who take ownership of their legal well
being. Paying an attorney merely to
regurgitate legal information wastes
time and money. Paying a skilled
attorney to propose a legal course of
action on a legal issue on which you
have educated yourself may well be the
best money you spend.
How to Reduce Your Fees
There are ways in which you can get
your legal fee reduced to make them
1. make sure that you discuss your
case as well as your personal finances
explicitly with your lawyer.
2. elucidate how your case can be
advantageous for him and his firm;
3. always, consider hiring a lawyer
associated with a smaller firm – they
are almost always less expensive;
4. consider doing a significant amount
of footwork yourself. This will reduce
the legal fee;
5. if you have a lot of legal work,
and you are in need of a legal
representative for the long-term, you
can negotiate, and ask for a fee
6. your lawyer will be obliged to
charge a lesser fee if you prepare
evidence and documents well, saving
the lawyer many of these tasks;
7. e-mails are better than phone
calls. Do not speak for longer than
necessary. Your lawyer needs to charge
you for his time if he is to earn a
living. So be short and precise;
8. be sure to obtain a
written fee agreement/mandate at the
8.1.1 a fee agreement is essential. An
attorney will serve you based on what
you provide him. Be sincere when it
comes to paying him. Make sure you pay
his entire fee at the right time.
8.1.2 when you sign a fee agreement
with an attorney, be aware of how the
case will be handled, and in what way
the fee will be made up. The agreement
should clearly state all the terms and
8.1.3 mention clearly what services
you want, and what result you
anticipate. Ask questions about the
fee agreement, and try to understand
every aspect of it.
8.1.4 remember that whatever you
estimate about your case is just a
rough idea of the expenses. The actual
cost may vary with what you have in
mind and what turns out to need doing.
8.1.5 Discuss terms in the fee
agreement that you are not happy with.
Your attorney will probably be willing
to explain them or change them where
he feels your objections are
reasonable. If he won't, go to someone
else. Better at the outset than later.
Avoiding Fee Disputes
1. When you hire a lawyer, make sure
that you ask for the “fee” terms and
conditions to be written down in the
mandate. Obtain a cost estimate.
Expect to pay a deposit.
2. Keep a record of the
advances given to the lawyer, meetings
held along with duration and what was
discussed, phone calls made, court
3. Whenever some discrepancies come to
your attention while checking your
lawyer's bills, don't hesitate - get
your doubts cleared;
4. If a fee dispute still arises,
settle it immediately with the help of
the following tips:
4.1 Discuss billing in a meeting with
the lawyer. Make sure that the amounts
that need clarification or
verification are highlighted;
4.2 You can hire another lawyer to
check the accuracy and validity of the
4.3 in case of injustice, you have the
right to seek assistance from the
local bar association;
An Attorney for Your Business or
1. Whenever you take a step with legal
implications (eg leases, partnerships,
agreements/employment contracts ) –
consult an attorney first. Don't sign
first and then run to an attorney when
something goes wrong.
2. There are many legal
issues related to a business. Signing
a new contract or an agreement is
bound to have legal aspects associated
with it. Be proactive to avoid legal
issues before they backfire on you.
Make sure that contract is properly
drawn up. Don't wait until something
goes wrong. It will be too late. The
answer is that you should hire an
attorney for your business. He will
not only help you when you are stuck
in any legal problem but also to avoid
unwelcome litigation in the first
If it's Justified – Say Thank You !
Nothing is more appreciated by a
lawyer or secretary than a thank you –
if they deserve it. You will boost his
morale and make him keener to serve
your needs. If you want your case to
stand out, follow the thank you rule.
Adapted from original material posted
at Darrolls Attorneys: