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Communicating with your Lawyer

Understand the Client / Lawyer relationship

Any client / lawyer relationship relies on good communication from both the lawyer and the client.

When communicating with your lawyer it is important to listen and ask questions.

A good relationship with your lawyer will help your lawyer understand how they can help you, and it may save you time and money.

To build a good relationship with your lawyer, you should:

  • Be aware of all deadlines and what you need to do to meet those deadlines.
  • Keep all paperwork together and in order.
  • This should include notes of any phone conversations or other events.
  • Respond promptly to any communication from your lawyer.
  • Talk about your matter with your lawyer including any concerns, options and possible causes of actions.
  • Be aware of the lawyer’s costs throughout this process.

Once you establish a positive relationship with your lawyer, it is important to maintain it by:

  • Ensuring you are aware of all deadlines.
  • Keeping all paperwork together and in some logical order, including diarised notes of any phone conversations or other occurrences.
  • Responding promptly to all communications from your lawyer.
  • Talking about your concerns and discuss options for possible courses of action.
  • Ensuring you are aware of your lawyer’s costs throughout the process

Be prepared

Be prepared before any meeting with a lawyer. Being prepared can save time and money and may limit misunderstandings in communication.

Before any meeting with a lawyer, try to:

  • Make a list of how you think the lawyer can help you include any tasks you thing the lawyer can do on your behalf.
  • Write down any questions you may need to ask.
  • Have all the documents and other information you think relate to your matter ready.
  • Write down as may facts as you can.
  • Write down what you want to happen. For example:
    • Any outcomes you want
    • The reason for seeing the lawyer
    • The reason you need legal advice
    • Whether you want the matter to settle
    • Whether you want to go to court.

At the meeting

When you meet with your lawyer it is very important to confirm your lawyer understands why you have come to see them and what you are asking them to do.

A good way to check whether you and your lawyer understand each other may be to:

  • Ask for confirmation if you are unsure or don’t understand something.
  • Focus on all of the conversation or document and write down things you don't understand or need more information about.
  • Don’t let how you feel affect your judgement.
  • Be clear and tell your lawyer all the facts.
  • Don’t assume your lawyer knows the story.
  • Be clear about what you want.
  • Don’t assume your lawyer knows what you want.
  • Only say ‘yes’ when you agree with your lawyer’s advice or suggestions.

Remember, if you don't understand something, let your lawyer know and ask more questions. Talk to your lawyer if you have concerns about the service or advice they may have given.

Ask your lawyer to:

  • document the tasks they can do
  • document how much it will cost and to highlight any other costs that may be incurred (this information should normally be documented in a client agreement).
  • confirm how you will communicate with each other e.g. by phone, email or letter
  • make a note of who will be your main contact at the firm.

Remember to be realistic about what your lawyer can do for you. Your lawyer can only act for you within the constraints of the law.

During the first meeting with the lawyer remember to ask these five questions:

  1. What are my options?
  2. What are my chances of getting the outcome I want?
  3. What will it cost?
  4. What is the process?
  5. How long will it take?

Remember to also ask your lawyer to:

  • Document:
    • what they can do,
    • how much it will cost and,
    • whether any other costs are likely to be incurred and what they might be for.
  • Discuss how you and the lawyer should communicate, e.g. in person, by phone or email.
  • Confirm and make a note of who will be your contact person at the firm when you contact your lawyer.
  • Give you copies of all correspondence.
    • Check whether this will cost extra.