Have a Clear Understanding of What Your Attorney Was Hired to Do
Some people go to see an attorney for a variety of reasons and then wind up retaining that attorney. However, sometimes there is a misunderstanding between the client and the attorney regarding just what the attorney was hired to do. California law requires a written retainer agreement between the attorney and client. Do not sign the retainer agreement until there is a clear description contained in the retainer agreement regarding what services will be provided to you, and until you are in agreement with that description. If you disagree with what the attorney believes his job is, you are heading towards an ultimate disagreement or dispute with one of the most important people in your life.
Have Regular Communication from Your Client
Since the invention of email, there is no longer any excuse for an attorney and client to remain in close and regular contact. By doing so, the possibility of misunderstanding is dramatically reduced. Be sure to ask your attorney to email you a copy of everything he files with the court, everything the other side files with the court, all letters he sends out, all letters he receives, and all emails he sends and receives, other than obviously unimportant communications. Then, make sure that you ask your attorney to explain anything that you receive that you do not fully understand. Some attorneys prefer telephone calls to emails, others like email. Find out what works best between the two of you. Email, however, creates a record that you and your attorney can review at anytime.
Have Regular "Reassessment" Communication With Your Counsel
No case ever works out exactly how it was planned. Witnesses whom you thought would support your case wind up being poor witnesses. Documents you thought would help are interpreted by others as not being so helpful. A mediator suggests certain problems with your case that neither you nor your attorney had thought would be a problem. When your case changes, make sure you and your attorney discuss these changes and determine whether or not your strategy needs to change.
Have Communication With Your Client Regarding Possible Outcomes of Your Representation
No attorney can predict the outcome of your case. However, after he has had an opportunity to conduct an investigation (through formal and informal discovery), he will certainly have ideas regarding your chances in the lawsuit. Moreover, if you are being sued, he will have an idea regarding the potential amounts of liability you face if you were to lose at trial, and he will have some thoughts regarding what prevailing in the case would mean for you. An attorney is not a prophet, but he can use the knowledge he acquires after being involved in the case to give you some ideas and concepts about where you stand.