Here are some handy tips for successfully SUPERVISING YOUR ATTORNEY, and MANAGING YOUR CASE.
- “RUN THE TABLE.” You may be impressed with your attorney, but make sure YOU take the initiative and make the major decisions. (This applies to Medical Doctors, just as well as Attorneys.) DO NOT sit back, relax, and enjoy the fact that someone else is handling a major part / component of your life and well-being. Pretend you’re in Vegas, playing “Craps,” or pretend you’re Donald Trump, after winning three or four Primaries in a row …. this is an opportunity for you to shine, to be the boss, and the “mover and shaker.” Do not pass up the opportunity.
- SPEAK-UP … BE THE “SQUEEKY WHEEL” THAT GETS THE “GREASE.” Be in constant contact with your attorney, but do not be a pest. When possible, send e-mails, rather than make telephone calls. That gives your Attorney just a little bit more control of the timing of the conversation – meaning when exactly he or she responds – but YOU must still control the agenda, as much as possible. Just like the patients in a hospital that have the most visitors – and most assertive visitors – are treated the best by the Hospital Staff, so the Clients that communicate the most, speak up when appropriate, and make their “presence felt,” are the ones that are treated the best by their attorneys.
- TRY YOUR HAND AT LEGAL WRITING. By this we mean, rather than sending your Attorney a ten-page handwritten note, or a series of disjointed e-mails, try your best to send him or her a brief, concise e-mail, with a DRAFT DECLARATION attached. Meaning, try your best to put the written information that you are conveying, in the form and format – more or less – that your Attorney will be required to put it in, in order to file it with the Court, or use it as the basis for a letter to Opposing Counsel. If this is your very first lawsuit or divorce or legal matter of consequence, this may sound like “Greek” to you. But for those of you who have had to hire an attorney once or more already, you will understand. Try your best to convey your thoughts … in a form and format that your Attorney can readily and quickly USE.
- BE REASONABLE AND REALISTIC. I was once involved with a complex commercial lawsuit, and I recall that the parties scheduled a Mediation, before a Retired Judge, in hopes of settling at least some of the issues, without going to Trial. The Mediator made it clear at the outset that his approach required each side to think hard, and then convey to him (the Mediator) a reasonable and realistic settlement offer, which represented (theoretically) the absolute minimum that they would require in order to consider the settlement to be worthwhile, from their perspective. After several hours of preliminary discussions, the Mediator requested that reasonable and realistic settlement offer from each side. On the side that I was involved with, the Attorney left it up to the Client (Principal of the Company) to formulate the settlement proposal. The Client thought for five minutes, and then assembled a “Laundry List” of all the amounts and concessions that he would like to have. Upon presenting his Laundry List to the Mediator, the Mediator said, “well thank you very much [sarcastically], we’re obviously done here,” and walked out of the room, and actually terminated the Mediation. So the day was a waste for everyone involved. It would have been better for the Client to be Reasonable and Realistic.
- EXAMINE INVOICES CAREFULLY, REQUEST REVISIONS, BUT THEN ACCEPT THE RESULT. Meaning, do not pay an Attorney’s Invoice without reviewing it carefully. If you have questions, or believe that the charges are too high, then discuss it with your Attorney. Attorneys’ Invoices CAN be negotiated. But, after your Attorney revises the Invoice amount downward, accept the result and pay it. Not necessarily all at once … you can informally work out a payment schedule or accommodation, so that the impact of the Invoice can be spread out over time. But then, you really should pay your Attorney some or all of the charges.
Here’s why: much as your Attorney trusts you, and believes in you, and agrees with your assessment of your case, he or she still has to pay the rent. Consciously or unconsciously, if you stop paying your Attorney, her or she will begin to place more energy in his or her other cases, where the clients pay regularly. If this occurs, your Attorney is not intentionally failing you, rather, he or she is just focusing more energy on the clients that support his or her law practice. If you quote me, I’ll deny that I ever said this, but, to some degree at least, it is the truth.