Ten Things You Can Do To Improve Your Attorney-Client Relationship
By Patrick Wright
July 2, 2012
Let’s face it; there are a lot of lawyers in Texas. As of November 6, 2009, there were 83,596 to be exact. As the managing partner of The Wright Firm and as a practicing lawyer over the last seventeen years, I have spoken with numerous people who were mad with their lawyers. Here are some solutions that I think will make the attorney-client relationship work more effectively if you have to hire an attorney for a legal matter:
- Have A Written Fee Agreement: I always like to say a contract lets me know I have a client, and it lets a client know that they have an attorney. The contract should specifically state the legal matter the lawyer has been hired to complete for you and define the terms of that relationship.
- Tell Your Attorney How You Like To Communicate: We live in a time of technology consisting of faxes, emails, cell phones, home phones, and text messages. I have to admit, one of the new things I am going to do, is to have the client select how they would like to communicate with the firm. Clients contact us on the firm number, our cell numbers, via text messaging, and via email. Letting your attorney know in the beginning of the relationship how you would like to be communicated with will enhance the attorney-client relationship. Maybe you have saved your attorney’s cell phone number in your cell phone. You may get frustrated if you keep trying to call and you get your attorney’s voice mail. Try to remember that your attorney may be in court, mediation, a meeting, or may have just turned his or her cell phone off, which results in you having to leave a message.
- Determine How You Want To Receive Your Case Documents: Everyone is different and likes to receive information in a different manner. Some people want to receive their case documents by mail via the U.S. Postal Service. Others prefer to receive them immediately via email. And there are some who prefer to stop by the office and pick them up via hand delivery. Be clear and let your attorney know how you would prefer to receive documents and which method is most convenient for you.
- Review All First Filed Pleadings And Settlement Documents: If you review the initial document that is filed with the court and all final settlement documents, you will know exactly what you are getting. You would be surprised how many of you I ask in a deposition questions about what you have filed and you have no idea what you are asking for or what you mean.
- Don’t Play Phone Tag: Some people call repeatedly throughout the day expecting to reach their attorney only to find out that he or she is unavailable. Here is the secret; talk to your attorney’s legal assistant and schedule a phone conference on the attorney’s calendar. This way, you will know exactly when you get to speak to your attorney, and he or she will be ready for your call.
- Save Your Questions: Be sure to keep a notebook handy and jot down the questions you have regarding your case as they come to you. Before you call or email your attorney, make sure you have your notebook handy with all your questions. This way when you call or email your attorney, you can address all your concerns at one time. Not only is this more efficient, but it will save you money in the long run, since you are charged for telephone calls and emails.
- Review Your Billing Statements: We make our clients sign a statement that says they agree to open and read their billing statements. It sounds silly, but some people don’t read them. The statement is another way to see what work has been completed on your case. You may have questions regarding what the work was or why it was necessary. If you ever have questions regarding the billing statements, you should be able to contact the office manager for clarification at no charge.
- If You Have A Problem, Schedule A Face To Face Meeting With Your Attorney: Representing a client in a legal case is a lot about managing expectations. If you don’t like the way your case is being handled, contact your attorney and tell them that you want an hour of their time at no charge to talk about your case and to explain that you have concerns about the direction the case is going. I’m not saying do this all the time but definitely if you have a serious concern. If your attorney will not sit down and talk to you, you should question whether you really need to keep that attorney.
- Remember You Are Not Paying Your Attorney To Tell You What You Want To Hear: I see a lot of people who hire an attorney who agrees with them. Remember you are hiring an attorney to not only assist you in interpreting the law and how it applies to your case and your rights, but to also tell you the truth and provide you with advice. You have the option to reject or accept that advice. You are not hiring a parrot, so remember that you may not always like what you hear.
- Make Your Attorney Explain It. Do not be afraid to ask your attorney to explain what they are doing. I see some people who are afraid to ask because they don’t want to look as thought they do not understand. Make sure you read and understand all documents before you sign them. If you do not, ask your attorney to explain it again and again until you do understand.
These are just a few helpful hints that should make your attorney-client relationship and legal case run more smoothly. If you need legal representation in Texas, give The Wright Firm a call at 972-353-4600 or check us out on the web at www.thewrightlawyers.com