Communicate Your Expectations

Every lawyer practices in a different way, and every client has different expectations for their attorney. Outlining these expectations at the beginning of the representation can help both sides understand each other and lead to a healthier and more productive attorney-client relationship. All lawyers have ethical rules they must abide by, and sometimes what the client expects runs afoul of these rules. Communication about the case is a key area to discuss in this respect as well. Lawyers are ethically obligated to keep their clients "reasonably informed as to the status of their case." Reach an understanding with your lawyer early on as to what "reasonable" means for you and them.


Be Responsive

In order to achieve the best results, your lawyer simply cannot do everything themselves. Effective representation is a team effort, and your lawyer is going to need certain information and items from you at certain points in the case. Do your best to communicate and get these items to your attorney quickly. This is especially important if there is a deadline. Please return your lawyer's phone calls and answer his letters. If you ignore your lawyer, your state's ethical rules may require the lawyer to treat the non-contact as a constructive discharge, meaning you likely no longer have a lawyer.


Be Patient

Yes, you do technically have a right to a speedy trial. But, "speedy" is a very subjective term. Litigation is not a quick-fix solution to a problem, and it is not at all unusual for the case to go on for over a year, or even over the course of several years depending on its complexity. The law allows certain time frames for items like discovery to occur. The lawyer has little control over the court's crowded docket. Understand that there are going to be delays in your case, and often the cause of these delays are things outside of your lawyer's control. Additionally, keep in mind that your lawyer is part of a business. In order for that business to be successful, there must be more than one client. If you leave your lawyer a message, expect them to return the call in a reasonable amount of time. This may not mean that they call you back within the hour. Know that your case is important to your lawyer.


Be Understanding

There is no such thing as a perfect case. Your lawyer has an obligation to you to help you weigh the risks and the benefits of proceeding forward in your case, and this necessarily means discussing unfavorable facts and issues with you. Many clients tend to become upset at the lawyer during these conversations because of our tendency to "kill the messenger." Before you do, take a deep breath and try to understand where your lawyer is coming from. Additionally, there may be laws that unfavorably affect your case. Understand that your lawyer must operate within those laws.


Be Open and Honest

Believe it or not, sometimes clients will try to hide things from their lawyers because they think it will hurt their case. This puts the lawyer in a bad position of not being prepared for it and having to scramble to deal with it when the other side brings it up in a deposition or in trial (because the other side will find it). If there is anything that you think could have a bearing on your case, good or bad, share it with your lawyer. The more information you arm your lawyer with the better. Additionally, be honest with your lawyer if you do not understand their explanation of something, or have questions about it. The lawyer should not think less of you, and they understand that sometimes the law can be confusing and requires further explanation. If you have concerns about how your lwayer is handling the case, you should also be open about this and discuss it with your lawyer to reach an understanding.