Achieving the desired outcome in your legal dispute or transaction in an efficient manner takes a team effort of both the lawyer and the client. Efficiency is not only a key concern for the paying client but is also a practical goal for lawyers. Below are several suggestions to help ensure that your legal matter proceeds expeditiously and efficiently.
1. Communicate your desired outcome clearly and as early as possible
In any legal dispute or transaction, parties may have a number of factors motivating them to do pursue a specific legal course of action. In order for the lawyer to represent you and pursue your ultimate goal in an efficient manner, communicate your underlying motivations to your lawyer as clearly and as early as possible.
You can be assured that unless you instruct otherwise, your lawyer will not disclose your underlying motivations to the opposing party. However, it will allow you and your lawyer to formulate a strategy that is aligned with your underlying motivations and goals. If you are unsure about what you are trying to achieve, your lawyer should also know this. Remember, the lawyer is there to guide you through the legal process and ensure that your rights are fully protected and enforced.
2. Discuss the reasonabless of your expectations for the legal proceeding
We all have our expectations. In matters which have an element of law, our expectations for the legal outcome may be shaped by things which are not legally relevant.
Discuss what outcome you expect and be open to your lawyer’s answer. Depending on the complexity of your matter or the financial costs involved, you may want to re-evaluate your expectations. Consider if for example, you want to spend 8 months and $15,000 trying to recover $14,000 in damages?
If you are unsatisfied with your lawyer’s assessment of your expectations, avoid discarding the lawyer’s professional opinion based solely on the fact that is not what you expected. You are better of understanding the realm of legal possibility from the outset and crafting an efficient strategy to maximize the likelihood of your success then pursuing a legally impossible goal.
3. Organize your information
Depending on the type of legal matter, your lawyer will require any number of documents, statements and other information in order to build your case or complete the legal transaction on your behalf. This may include for example corporate documents, tax filings, financial records, timelines and sequences of events.
Once your lawyer advises you what it is they require, ask them if there is a specific way you can organize the information to make it more effective and efficient. Although your lawyer is not an accountant, he or she has experience with financial statements and the like. However, do you really want to pay your lawyer fees to – for example - organize your financial documents for the last 5 years? Perhaps this is something you are able to do. Again, inquire with your lawyer and be cognizant of this when providing boxes of unsorted documents.
4. Prepare for your meeting
Prepare for each of your meetings with your lawyer. Think about what you want to achieve in a given meeting or call, what type of issues you are unclear about and what questions you want answered.
You may want to take notes on the topics you want to cover in a meeting and email a list of topics you wish to discuss to the lawyer in advance of your meeting or call. This will give the lawyer time to consider the issues and have thought out answers for you. Of course, given your discussions in your meeting, the lawyer’s advice to you may change but at least you both have a general sense of what you are looking to accomplish.
5. A lawyer is not a social worker or therapist
In many legal matters especially family, criminal and estates matters, the issues are emotionally charged. Clients are often going through a very challenging time in all respects, including emotionally, physically, mentally and financially. Lawyers understand this and while striving to assist their clients through such trying times, great lawyers are sensitive to the non-legal hardships facing their clients.
As part of the legal process, lawyers seek to familiarize themselves with the contextual underpinnings of the legal matter. At the same time, given the great amount of trust entrusted to their lawyer, a client may start to communicate with the lawyer in a frequency that is rooted in a need for emotional or mental support. While this is a tricky topic and due to the professionalism and true concern for the well-being of their clients, many lawyers will entrain the role of a trusted confidant, the client should remember that the lawyer is billing for their time and is only an expert in legal matters. In fact, in order to provide reasoned legal advice absent of passion, most lawyers maintain a healthy amount of distance between them and their clients.
To avoid a problem of becoming too reliant on your lawyer, discuss boundaries of the lawyer-client relationship and invite the lawyer to propose more efficient ways of communicating. If you are concerned about your legal costs, ask the lawyer to let you know when your communication has veered away from legally relevant matters.
This article should not be relied upon as legal advice - the comments may not be applicable to you and may not be up to date. If you have any questions, you should contact a lawyer.