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How to Get the Most Out of Your Lawyer (or How to Be a Good Client)

Posted September 15, 2017

By Jonathan A. Karon

One of my friends suggested that the President should read my last blog post on “How to Find a Good Lawyer”.  I jokingly replied that what the President really needed was a blog post on “How to Be a Good Client.” Which got me thinking about some brief advice on how you can help your lawyer do the best job possible for you. Here’s a brief, non-exhaustive, list of suggestions.

1. Return your lawyer’s phone calls and e-mails promptly.

You have the right to expect that your lawyer will promptly return your calls and e-mails. By the same token, your lawyer will periodically need information from you to be able to move your case forward. If you’re a party in a lawsuit, your lawyer may be under strict time deadlines to provide information and documents. Also, there are certain decisions, like whether to accept a settlement offer, that only the client can make. So if your lawyer tells you they need to reach you, you need to get back to them as soon as possible.

2. Be straight with your lawyer.

Almost everyone has a skeleton or two in their closet that they’d prefer to keep private. For example, some people are embarrassed that they’ve seen a psychologist, or had a drug or alcohol problem or had marriage counseling or been fired from a job. If you make your lawyer aware of these facts, they can advise you whether you’re likely to have to disclose it and, if so, whether it will matter in your case. Many times, this type of information isn’t subject to disclosure. But your lawyer can’t properly advise you or protect your privacy unless you level with them.

3. Listen to your lawyer and carefully consider their advice.

You’re not required to do what your lawyer advises, but make sure you’ve understood their advice and have a good reason for rejecting it. Presumably you have trust and confidence in your lawyer or you wouldn’t have hired them. This doesn’t mean that your lawyer is infallible, but that their advice merits careful consideration. Your lawyer is obligated to explain the reasons for their advice and to answer all your questions. If your lawyer is not clearly answering your questions or you no longer have confidence in them, then it may be time to consider hiring a new lawyer.

4. Don’t talk about your case in public.

Anything you say to your lawyer in private is privileged. But anything you say about your case (or post on social media) can be used against you by the other side. So, if your friends ask you about your case, tell them you can’t talk about it. If they get upset, just blame it on your lawyer. I’m happy to be blamed for my clients not discussing their cases.

If you follow these suggestions, it should help your lawyer do the best job possible for you.
As for the President, from what I’ve read, he seems to have problems following Suggestions 3 and 4. I also shouldn’t have to add never insult the judge while your case is pending (or afterwards) but, since the President has done that too, let me be clear that doing that is a REALLY BAD IDEA. All of which explains why according to reports, multiple law firms rejected him as a potential client.

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