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How to Talk to a Lawyer-Keep these in Mind to be more Smooth, efficient, & Effective!

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by , 06-20-2012 at 12:41 AM (1525 Views)
How to Effectively Speak to a Lawyer

I figured that we should write some guidelines for normal everyday folks that they can use if they call up a lawyer or their own personal lawyer. Too often lawyers get calls, and I sometimes get them myself from people that are clearly upset. They only become more worked up when they think I’m not sensitively handling and listening like a counselor to them tell me about all their problems. Yeah, I may think that I am a good listener, that I'm great at speaking with clients, and at the same time, it seems to me that people regularly have difficult times spitting out to me the specifics of what I need so that I can help them.

1. First, keep this thought in mind about important vs. non-important details. Now, that isn't to say that it means your complaints aren't reasonable or that they somehow do not matter. But it does mean that some things you tell me are going to be used in court or in settling or handling your legal issues. While others will not. I'll certainly consider the important details and so you should also sift through your thoughts. Details that matter to your case are sometimes different than what you think. So just think about stuff that matters, and you could even consider making a bulleted list if you want to get your information across to me quickly.

2. Be Precise. Be exact. Be just as specific with your details as possible. When your acquaintance or your neighbor has demonstrated that they've been a headache ever since the time you moved into the area, it is certainly awful, however, you're going to need to be more exact about this issue than telling me just that. Think along the following lines: Names, incidences and events, exact dates or periods of time if possible, how the people who were involved acted, and specifics of what they did. This is how the court hears. They don't hear generalities.

3. Finish one thought before going to next
. It's a regular occurrence for my clients to be speaking with me, and halfway through one issue the sentence drops off and they mention some unimportant detail. Now, I don't wanna look like the bad guy, or like I'm not listening when I try to steer the conversation back to the issue at hand. Often it may come across that I'm not listening to you if I try this kind of thing. I promise, I have your interests and I have to admit that I also have my own sanity and my time at interest as well. But it's all in the spirit of getting the point across correctly and succinctly and completely so that we don't have some big, unorganized game plan for handling your case.

Tell me about your issue or story in chronological order if possible. Nothing can confuse me or just about anyone more than telling me things out of sequence. Say the city has chosen to condemn your home, also they towed your vehicle 3 years prior, then first just tell the story about the vehicle first (that is--if it's really even pertinent!) and then tell me about the house. I sometimes don't have the ability to read minds, and sometimes I have to sit and write everything down as I talk with you, then I have to piece it together including the order and try to figure what occurred and when, and how, and if my mind has to work so hard on these kind of things, I can devote less brainpower to paying attention or solving your legal issues.

5. Be factual. Be honest. Remember that your conversations with an attorney are privileges and as such are absolutely confidential—that means in any state you're in. As your attorney, I am required legally to protect your interests and your privacy and your confidentiality even to "every peril to [even myself], the secrets of [clients].” If you can bring yourself to simply admit where you messed up, then do it. This is very important so that I can help you better and more clearly help you solve your issues and legal problems. Sometimes I find clients lying to their lawyers—and trust me, this always ends up hurting them in the long run because the lawyer can't help them with things they don't know about. (That said, you should tell your attorney when something in particular is a secret; this way you won't have to worry about him slipping and sharing it with someone whom he perceives to be a friend for example.)

6. Don't tell me your other attorney is an idiot, it won't help me. Anyway it's counterproductive, and it just doesn't help us deal with the situation at hand.

7. Think more, not less. This point could sound like it is inconsistent with my second point; however, it just really is imperative that you tell me lots of details when it comes to important issues. Many people are tempted just to open the flood gates and gush the whole story out. You may think that it is lawyer’s purpose and job to filter and sift through your thoughts and pull it together into coherent issues of legal nature all in his head. Well, sometimes that is what happens, and if it is going to happen, then at least being very specific will help the cause. It is favorable to share with me too much than to share with me too little.

8. You'll get your point across to us better if you just speak in normal terms. We'll worry about legal terms in the courtroom and on paper. Your job isn't needing to know legal terminology or how to speak it. You're only going to confuse yourself, probably me--your lawyer--as I try to figure out what you meant and at worst, you may even mislead me without knowing it. You could, for example refer to something as a contract, a deed, even a will, and the actual situation is that these were simply emails. You could also even try to name specific statutes of the law—the attorney may mistakenly assume that you know your facts and know what you are speaking of. Even if you do know some things, the chances are that you probably don’t know enough to use these terms, you could even become upset if the attorney explains as they often do that the document you're calling a deed is not really a deed. Also the lawyer could entirely misunderstand the question--providing you with an incomplete or the answer to the wrong question than you were intending. So in my opinion, you should really stick with laymen’s terms. Say it how it happened.

9. Don't talk about doing things that are illegal. This has not happened with my clients; however, I have heard talk of clients who tell their attorneys things they intend to do such as “Heck, maybe I should just do blankity blank and the authorities can just come find me if they want!” As an attorney, I'm not allowed to give you legal advice or advise you in anyway to do anything that is illegal, and attorneys are people, too, and can get really upset over stuff like this. Once again, don't lie, but then, what it really boils down to is that you should not be considering illegal acts. That's a simple solution!

Don't call me each and every day—heck don't call me every hour--BUT DO CALL. You may feel as if your lawyer doesn't ever call. Often times this is simply because the lawyer hasn't got anything new to tell. They could call and charge you for it, but if court hearing is scheduled and ready, um, there is not going to be a big development this Tuesday that is somehow different than today--Monday. You might just get this phrase which is all we can offer you that, “Yes, the hearing really still is in 3 weeks.” That said, lawyers are not unlike many others and they do get busy sometimes. So if you feel I may have lost track of the case—feel free to give me a call to keep it in front of mind. The squeeky wheel does get the grease. And we do work for your needs and you are our clients, but just don't get annoying. We work for you. We're sort of like your employees. So as that we're experts—don’t be the boss who tries to micromanage. As our boss, you do have the right to make sure we're doing what you need us to do, but calling once per week when things are waiting on hearings is fine. When other things come up you can trust that I'll certainly call you.

11. When your lawyer says they need a document or something else—get on it! Give it to them. Deadlines are real. Courts to not wait, and these are the kinds of things that keep lawyers up at night. By Friday really does mean that we need it by Friday. We truly, really, greatly, absolutely must have it before Friday. Don't just put things off if we ask for them. You may feel that your lawyer puts off things sometimes, even requests continuances, etc—so maybe that doesn't seem fair; however, that is only how it works. You just gotta honor deadlines so that we can best fight for you within deadlines because it becomes more difficult when deadlines cannot be adhered to, and remember, we're fighting for you here! So you are going to go on a vacation? Maybe you won't be able to be called on the phone, LET US KNOW. Fewer things are worse than when we need a witness’ statement, or your signature on a document and we can't get a hold of you. Help us, help you!