When people seek out an attorney for a lawsuit, it’s usually a very serious situation that is greatly important to the Client. It is vital to have confidence in your lawyer, and that comes from knowing that she is on top of her game and making all the right moves.
This isn’t news to most people – they have a deep sense of this. However, the legal process is unknown to many folks, and its complexity may make it difficult to have a sense of whether the attorney is doing everything that needs to be done; whether he is in command.
We’ve been around long enough to see some of the great masters at work, as well as to see some shoddy work. We’ve done a lot of things right, and we’ve made a few mistakes along the way, and we’ve learned from every one of them. Here is some of our insight as to what you might consider in terms of whether your attorney is doing a good job; it’s part of what we strive to do every day.
Successful execution of a lawsuit starts with being in command. That means having a well-thought-out plan, sticking to it, and working with the client every step of the way.
Your attorney should formulate a plan early in the case that will serve as a road map for everything that needs to be done. She must begin with the end in mind. It is not unusual for a diligent attorney to review the jury instructions (to be delivered at the end of the case) early in the life of the case, and use them as a frame to shape discovery requests and deposition questions.
The successful attorney will have a timetable for key events in the case. That timetable must anticipate potential contingencies (such as adversaries failing to deliver requested discovery on time) and have key steps in place, ready to deal with them as they come up. To be most effective, such timetables will be implemented within an electronic case management system, in order that human error and competing obligations not derail key case objectives.
With successful execution, such a plan leads to command of the case. When an attorney is in command of a case, you will see that she is setting the agenda. She is forcing the opponent to react; not the other way around (though, in every case, there are inevitably periods where an attorney has to respond to an opponent’s initiative, such as by producing discovery).
At each stage of the game, the Attorney should be direct, concise, and candid in communicating with the client, and should do so eagerly. Clients should view an attorney’s lack of availability or apparent reluctance to speak with them as a red flag. At all times, the client should feel that she has good lines of communication with her lawyer, that her lawyer is available to her, and that she is given reasonable and prompt notice of important events. A good attorney views his client as a key team player; one without which he cannot do his job effectively.
A good attorney also operates on fair terms, and is concerned with serving her client first and foremost. A wise client is wary of the attorney who nickel-and-dimes her for reasonable phone conversations and downloading data – i.e. charging full rate for tasks not requiring the application of the attorney’s skill set. At all times, the Client should feel like she is being dealt with fairly, and that the Attorney respects her dignity, intelligence, and humanity. In short, a lawyer should treat the client in the way that the lawyer would like for others to treat the lawyer.
If your attorney demonstrates command of the case, is candid with you about what to expect and why certain tasks are necessary, and treats you with the respect you deserve, you are in good hands. If you doubt that this is so, have a frank discussion with your lawyer about improvements you would like to see. If he does not deliver, find another attorney who will.?