Lyndsey: Week 12 of Being a Legal Assistant

How to Get on the Good Side of Your Attorney?

If you are contemplating divorce or are currently in the divorce process, you’d be wise to listen to what I have to share with you. I’ve got some law office insider advice for you on how clients can get and stay on the good side of their attorneys. In my twelve weeks of working as a legal assistant I have quickly and definitively learned a few ways to make your attorney happy and upset. Of course, I cannot speak for every law office or attorney, but in the family law practice office I work at, this is what I have observed, and that appears to be universal. So here are my current top three cautions:

What to do:

  1. Complete required forms that are sent to you in a timely manner. Don’t wait for your attorney or their staff to contact you to remind you to complete the document, just get it done and send it back with the supporting documents. Don’t wait until the last minute to complete them. If you work on them a little bit each day during the time you have between receiving them and when they are due, you and your attorney will have the least amount of trouble and you and your attorney can do your best work.
  2. Answer questions on forms as completely and as accurately and as honestly as possible. When preparing the first draft or two, it is better for you to give your attorney too much information than too little, when in doubt. It’s much easier to winnow things out to get to the best stuff. It’s a crying shame when the client loses the benefit of information and documents that could have helped the case but didn’t because they were never shared.
  3. Take the initiative. It’s your case. Give it the attention it deserves. When you have an idea or question or request, tell your attorney about it ASAP. ‘Think you have a document or other evidence that could help your case? Tell your attorney about it. Send your attorney a copy to review. Have a concern or question or comment that could solve or avoid trouble in your case? Express it. E-mail your attorney about it. Schedule a time with your attorney to meet or talk on the phone about it.

What NOT to do:

  1. Communicate and make deals with your soon to be ex without consulting your attorney and making a plan of action for the best results (or at least the least risk). Instead, find out if it’s better to communicate through your attorney. Conferring with your attorney before you act and communicating through an attorney when necessary or prudent makes it far less likely you’ll say or do things that hurt your case and you (or your kids).
  2. Assume that the forms your attorney sends you and the questions your attorney asks you somehow magically do not apply to you. Instead, make sure to complete all forms and to answer all of your attorney’s questions completely and fully and in the utmost good faith.
  3. Assume that since your case isn’t moving as fast, as inexpensively, and as easily as you’d like that your attorney is to blame. There are plenty of lousy lawyers out there, and if you know you have a bad attorney you should replace him or her immediately. But even the best attorneys aren’t wizards; they cannot force opposing counsel to reply to questions fully or timely, they cannot the courts to schedule court dates when it’s convenient, and they cannot make up through their personal hard work and willpower for clients who neglect their case.

I hope this was helpful. See you next week.

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