You’ve got a legal problem. You’ve hired a lawyer. You’re busy. You have work pressures, family obligations, and friends to see. So, you leave things in your lawyer’s hands, and don’t pay attention to the details of your case. Besides, your lawyer came highly recommended, and has a sterling reputation – and you are paying him or her a lot of money to take care of the problem. You don’t really understand all of that legal mumbo jumbo anyway. Perhaps you should reconsider…
Attorneys are trained legal professionals. It is important to listen to their advice regarding the legal issues in your case, and the procedural aspects of any matter involving the courts. Experienced counsel will typically identify the best strategy and tactics to achieve your goals, and can usually present alternatives as well. But you need to be the ultimate decision maker. Always remember that your counsel works for you, you are in charge, and you need to be the one who ultimately calls the shots. It’s your case, your money, and your life that are affected by the outcome.
Meet with your lawyer – it is shocking how many clients don’t do so. Make time to understand all of the important legal issues, understand the game plan, understand the risks, and understand the tangible and intangible costs involved. Listen carefully. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and take notes if you need to do so. If it’s appropriate and the matter is complex, ask for a written summary of the points that were discussed.
Moreover, it is critical to politely and firmly ask for periodic status updates. Important issues are bound to arise – both anticipated and unanticipated. Make sure that your lawyer knows that you want to be consulted about them in a timely and detailed manner so that you can adjust your game plan and/or goals accordingly. The best outcomes are achieved through active collaboration with your lawyer. Stay on top of your case.
Most lawyers will not neglect your case if you aren’t paying attention and don’t seem to care. Nonetheless, your case will most likely not be his or her highest priority. Like most professionals, lawyers are often very busy. Make sure that your goals are being met in a timely and efficient manner. Don’t allow your lawyer to sit idle in your garage, use all of his or her available horsepower to speed down the highway toward a successful outcome.
Don’t be a drowsy passenger riding your legal matter wherever it takes you. Drive the bus!