When you retain an attorney for a personal injury, family law, or other type of legal matter, you have the right to expect that your lawyer will keep you informed of what is going on with your case. Attorneys have an ethical obligation to keep their clients informed, and you should insist on communication and responsiveness when you first hire them.
This does not necessarily mean your attorney needs to contact you every single day or return every phone call or email within an hour. Attorneys are very busy with many clients to assist, hearings to attend, etc. That said, you should expect that they will answer your calls or emails within a reasonable period of time, and that they will provide frequent updates on the progress of your case.
What You Should Expect from your Attorney
Communication, responsiveness, ethics, and competency are all important elements of an attorney-client relationship. Here are some other things you should expect from your lawyer:
- Knowledge of their Area(s) of Focus: Every lawyer has certain areas of practice that they specialize in. Skills in these areas are acquired by going to law school, passing the Bar Exam, and practicing law for a number of years. Your attorney should have the type of in-depth knowledge that comes from not only studying law but also knowing how the law is applied within their locality.
- Empathy and a Willingness to Listen: Your lawyer should be someone that you like and trust to skillfully advocate on your behalf. This starts by thoroughly understanding your unique needs and goals, so they can develop the right legal strategy to accomplish your objective. Your attorney can only know and understand your needs if they take the time to listen to you.
- Clarity in Communication: As a client, you may have some knowledge of the legal matter you are dealing with, but it is usually minimal. Your lawyer needs to be able to clearly explain how the law applies to your issue and your rights and options in light of what the law says. The better your understanding, the better you are able to make informed decisions on which legal path you wish to pursue.
- Prepare your Case for a Successful Result: Your lawyer should be able to give you competent advice that comes from their wisdom and knowledge of the law, while allowing you to make the ultimate decision on how you want to proceed. They should also be able to prepare your case according to your wishes in a way that puts you in the best possible position to obtain a favorable outcome. Your lawyer should negotiate strongly on your behalf, and if there is a trial involved, they should be well-prepared to successfully present and argue your case.
What Your Attorney Should Expect from You
To increase your chances of a successful outcome with your legal matter, there are some ways you can help your attorney:
- Tell your lawyer everything you know about the case;
- Do not give them any false or misleading information;
- Abide by all agreements and follow through on everything you commit to do;
- Let your attorney know as soon as possible about any new information or developments in your case;
- Provide any information they request from you promptly.
How to Remain Informed when Working with an Attorney
Most individuals that are involved in a legal matter want to stay as informed as possible on the progress of their case. If you do not believe that you are getting the answers you need from your attorney, there are a couple ways you can approach this situation:
- Ask your attorney to be more responsive
Most attorneys are very busy, and sometimes, their lack of responsiveness may just be the result of a lot of demands on their time. In fact, they may not even be aware that you are frustrated by their lack of communication. Many times, this can be rectified with a simple conversation. Contact your attorney and let them know you would like more frequent updates on what is happening with your case. And if you don’t believe they are responding quickly enough when you call or email them, let them know that too. Do not be angry or blame them, just make the conversation businesslike, stating these things as a matter of fact. More often than not, you can come to a reasonable understanding with your attorney on how often they will stay in communication with you.
- Consider changing attorneys
If you have tried talking to your lawyer and their responsiveness does not improve, you may have the option to switch to a new lawyer. However, this option is not without consequences. First of all, your current lawyer may be entitled to payment for work already completed. If the case is on a percentage or contingency fee basis, you may owe them for hours already worked and/or expenses incurred. There are also times when the case is too far along to change lawyers. This is why your first recourse should be to attempt to resolve any issues you may have with your present attorney, and you should only consider changing attorneys as a last resort.