An Attorney-Client relationship is just that, a relationship. It is protected, privileged and personal. It requires commitment from both parties to work together to achieve the best outcome for the client both legally and personally. Here are some ways that I find creates the best environment for a healthy and productive attorney-client relationship.
The attorney-client relationship is protected by the laws of the State of Ohio. This relationship creates confidentiality surrounding the representation that the attorney cannot breach except for a few unique circumstances like, the client gives their express permission, in order to prevent the commission of a crime or prevent someone’s death. (For more detailed and complete information see Rules of Professional Conduct 1.6)
It is incredibly important to tell your attorney the whole truth. I am talking about every detail, whether you are proud of it or not, that is legally significant to the merits of your case. It’s better for your attorney to hear it from you in the conference room at the outset of the case then coming out of the mouth of opposing counsel in the court room.
Be Conscious of Time.
Some attorneys bill their client at flat rate or on a contingency, but most run their practices on the billable hour. This means that every time you meet, make a phone call, or send an email to your attorney, they are logging that time and adding it to your invoice. As a client, it is in your best interest to make sure that you are paying for services that you really need and getting the most value out of your dollar. Can the question be answered at a scheduled meeting? Maybe hold off on the phone call and ask then.
It is also important to be punctual. Whether you are attending a meeting with the attorney or a hearing at Court, give yourself some time to offset the possibility that you might get lost, caught in traffic or have a hard time finding a parking spot. Being on time sets the right tone for your meeting or with the Court and gives you and your attorney the time you need to get important things accomplished.
When you attend the first meeting with your attorney, have with you all the relevant documents, pleadings or evidence that will allow the attorney to have a full and complete understanding of your case. I often tell clients to “Bring everything you have and I’ll sort through it.” Obviously I don’t mean bring your entire filing cabinet with you, because again you have to be mindful that I will be keeping track of the time it takes to sort through everything, but don’t show up with just your name and a smile. In the legal world, having more relevant information to work with is better than less.
Also prepare yourself for the meeting, have a list of questions you want answered, have the names and addresses of relevant parties with you, and bring a pen and paper to take notes with because it is likely you will leave the first meeting with a game plan with next steps for you to follow.
In every Client Agreement I sign, I have included that I plan on returning all phone calls and emails within one business day. As a client, you should have an active interest in your case. After your initial meeting with your attorney, continue to check your voicemail and email that you provided the attorney to use to contact you. Often I find that after doing legal research I will have follow up questions that need answered or documents that need signed before I can proceed with the case.
Making yourself and your schedule available to your attorney not only promotes the well-being of the relationship, but it also streamlines the process allowing your case to be complete that much faster.
The attorney-client relationship is at its best when both parties work together to achieve the clients goals. But every relationship is as different as the individuals involved. Taking the time at the outset of the representation to create a solid foundation based on honesty and trust facilitates a healthy attorney-client relationship that will serve the best interests of the client.