Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Attorney-Client Relationship: How does it work?

For most people, when they decide they need to meet with an attorney, there are a million thoughts going through their head: How do I pick the right attorney? What do I need to bring with me?  What should I tell the attorney?  How much is it going to cost?  How long is this process going to last?

One thought that does not typically go through the mind is: What exactly is the relationship between an attorney and me?  This, however, is an important question to ask yourself and to understand.  This is the groundwork for the rest of your questions, some of which I listed above.

So, how does the attorney-client relationship work?

In general, you, the client, are the boss.  You make the decisions (for the most part) and you can choose to fire your attorney at any time.  You decide whether you want to testify, whether you want to bring a lawsuit, whether you want to make or accept a settlement offer, etc.  There are, however, some decisions that are left up to the attorney.  In general, these decisions relate to trial strategy and the right to decline unethical action even if the client requests it.  Aside from those limited decisions, you get to control your case.  Remember, the issue you bring to an attorney is YOUR issue and YOU have to live with the consequences, not the attorney.

That being said, your attorney is there to advise you on how to make all of those decisions.  For example, you attorney may say, "I think their settlement offer is fair and the risks outweigh the reward of going to trial so I would advise you to accept that offer."  However, as I said above, if you don't want to accept that offer, you can say no.  It is your decision.  Similarly, your attorney is there to advise you about your claims.  Typically, a client walks into an attorney's office with an idea of what type of claims they want to bring against someone else, whether it be a discrimination claim or an adultery based divorce claim.  After providing the attorney with the facts, your attorney is there to evaluate your claims and advise you on how to move forward.  Again, it is YOUR decision.  If your attorney says you have a claim for adultery based divorce but you just want a no-fault divorce, you can make that decision.  The one caveat to this is that an attorney cannot ethically bring a claim if there is no basis in law or fact for that claim and therefore, if that is the case, the attorney has the decision making power to decline pursuing that claim.  Again, however, you are the boss and you are always free to fire your attorney, obtain the advise of another attorney, etc.

So why is this important to know?  This gives you a basis for how the entire proceedings will play out.  It gives you an idea of what your role is and what the attorney's role is in the process.  It is important to have this conversation with any attorney you are considering hiring.  It will give you a clear idea of how that attorney intends on handling your case, what is expected of you and the amount of time and effort that the case may take.

If you are looking to hire an attorney and would like to discuss how we would handle your case, please contact us at (804) 447-0146 of