Provide Good Communication. Most dissatisfied clients complain that an attorney was unresponsive. A good attorney should be available to take your calls and emails, or be prompt in follow-up with a return call or email. While it is not reasonable to expect an attorney to take your calls on the same day, the attorney should contact you within one or two days of a non-emergency issue. Because attorneys are required to appear in court or to depositions that may be length, you should not expect an attorney to be at your beck and call. At the same, you should not feel that a secretary or paralegal is always running interference for the attorney either.
Be Competent. Your attorney should have a high level of expertise in the type of law that applies to your case. He should be familiar with the legal statutes and case law interpreting those statutes, and should know the court system procedures and judges who may be participating in your case. You also want your attorney to have a logical thought process and be able to anticipate problems that may arise from your particular factual situation.
Be Ethically Responsible. Your attorney has an ethical responsibility to you. That means that he or she must have an undivided loyalty to you. Attorneys are prohibited from representing two people with opposing interests. Thus, he cannot represent you and someone whose interest is not in line with yours. Your attorney cannot breach your confidence. Your attorney cannot put his or her interests ahead of yours. That does not mean that he cannot recommend a course of action with which you might disagree. It does mean, however, that he should point out the pros and cons of any decision and steer you toward the best choice for you.
Respect the Fee Arrangement. A good attorney will estimate potential costs for you if possible. He or she should help you analyze cost-effective strategies. An attorney should warn you if the cost of a jury trial places you at a likely risk of having expenses and/or fees that are higher than the likely recovery. An attorney should always get your approval before incurring unusual or unexpected expenses on your case.
Keep you in the Loop. You should be apprised of all major decisions and should be in the driver’s seat with respect to decisions affecting your case. Your attorney is your advisor, but you should have the last say in settlement negotiations or other major crossroads in your case. He or she should also let you know of upcoming deadlines and explain timelines as the case proceeds. Delays should be explained, as well as the risks and benefits of any decision.
Be Prepared. A good attorney is prepared for meetings, depositions, hearings, court appearances, and other matters pertaining to your case. He or she should be organized and efficient.
Be Consistent. Your attorney should do what he says he is going to do. If he tells you that he is going to prepare a motion or document for your case, it should be done within a reasonable amount of time. If it is not done, he should explain the delay or why he decided not to prepare the document. He should consistently do what he says he will do because that will build a trusting relationship.
Be Persistent. Your attorney is your champion. He or she should press your claim or case forward in the manner most likely to produce a positive outcome. You have hired an advocate for you. That does not mean that you have hired a mouthpiece that simply repeats what you tell him. It does mean that your attorney will listen to your position and establish a strategy that best advocates your position. If your attorney does not believe in your case, then someone else should represent you.
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