How to be a Great Client
There are lots of articles out there about what to look for in an attorney and how to pick the right attorney. Once you find that person, make sure you’re also the ideal client by following these simple rules.
Rule #1: Use the word “emergency” sparingly.
We know you’re going through a lot! Your stress levels are at an all-time high and you are having to wade through new territory. While we do everything possible to accommodate all requests as soon as humanly possible, we ask that our clients use the word emergency in moderation so that we can better help you. An emergency means we drop whatever we are in the middle of to help you through your crisis – we don’t have your file, aren’t prepared, and have no idea what to expect. And in a true emergency, that’s the best we can do. But just like with a hospital, you simply get more time, more efficiency, and more care with an appointment rather than an ER visit.
When you say you have an emergency, please make sure it’s an actual emergency. Make sure that you and your attorney have an understanding about how you each define the term “emergency.” In our office, we define “emergency” as a situation where you or your child’s lives or liberty are in immediate danger or if the police are involved.
One time, I had a client call the office, insisting it was an emergency. She refused to tell any of the support staff what the emergency was but said she absolutely had to speak with me as soon as possible. Trusting her, I agreed to a 6:00 am teleconference. It turns out, she wanted part of her retainer temporarily refunded because she wanted to go away for the weekend. The next time she called in claiming an emergency, she was not offered a 6:00 am appointment!
If in doubt, ask if your situation is an emergency.
Rule #2: Be honest.
Attorney-client privilege exists for a very important reason: for us to do our job, we need you to be honest with us. We can’t protect you or prepare you if you don’t let us in. We’re not going to judge you or think less of you. It’s not easy, but trust is vital to having a good relationship with your attorney. Every attorney’s nightmare is to be in court and hear the other attorney tell the judge something they didn’t know about their own client.
Rule #3: Remember your lawyer didn’t create the system or your situation.
I met with a very nice gentleman for an initial consultation regarding his child support case, which was assigned to the Department of Child Support Services. He had been ignoring their calls and correspondence for months, and he had no intention of cooperating with the process because he didn’t agree with the system. He became extremely upset when I informed him that no one was above the law and that he was required to pay his child support. There was nothing I could do to change the law or stop the Department from enforcing his child support obligation.
Another time, I took on a case halfway through the divorce process. My client came to me because her previous attorney had missed a very important deadline. She was upset (understandably so) that because of the missed deadline, under the law, she owed her spouse attorney fees. But she didn’t understand why I couldn’t magically undo the damage that had already been caused. When she was able to accept the law, we were able to instead focus on the ways we could minimize the damage and prevent this issue from ever happening again. While she did eventually have to pay about $500 in attorney fees, that was nothing compared to the $5,000 her spouse originally demanded.
While I don’t mind being the occasional punching bag (it’s an expected job hazard) or the recipient of an angry rant, do try to understand that I don’t have the power to rewrite the law or create exceptions to the rules. Likewise, I had no part in creating your marriage or divorce – my job is to help you manage the legal system in the best way possible.
Rule #4: Take Responsibility for your Case.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m here to oversee and manage the legal aspects of your case. But for your divorce to be successful, I need you present and participating fully in the process. I don’t live with the results, and as such, I need your ideas and thoughts and feedback. The last thing I want to happen is for you to end up in a situation you don’t want to be in. I can’t help you design your future without your input.
Want to be our great client? Contact us for more information!