A legal relationship rests on a platform of trust. If you don’t trust your attorney, you will be miserable and the attorney cannot effectively represent you. Many people are awed by their attorneys education and pedigree and don’t question their attorney’s competence until after the case is concluded. By then it probably too late to remedy any problems. There is nothing wrong with questioning your attorney about his or her case assessment or thoughts about strategy. The professional relationship is a joint effort and the client should never be kept in the dark about the direction of the case. Here are some things to think about when determining your level of trust in your attorney:
- Level of communication. Does the attorney keep you informed about all aspects of the case? Do you receive updates after court dates? Are your phone calls and emails promptly returned? While most attorneys are busy, there is no reason that an assistant or another lawyer in the firm can’t respond to your questions promptly. A lack of a timely response may be a warning sign that your lawyer is spread too thin to effectively represent you.
- Do you get clear answers to your questions? Good lawyers will answer your questions directly and not evade your requests for answers. Sometimes a lawyer will not know the answer to a question but the lawyer should tell you so, rather than giving you double talk. Good lawyers admit when they don’t know the answer to something. They then use their best efforts to figure out the answer.
- If it seems too good to be true it probably is. Some unscrupulous lawyers tell clients what they believe the client wants to hear rather than the unvarnished truth. Nobody wants to convey bad news but a lawyer has a duty to be honest with their clients, even when bad news must be reported. If things are being presented as unreasonably rosy, beware!
- Manipulative spouses. Sometimes spouses, “just trying to be helpful,” will try to get in your head about your attorney’s competence. Remember this person has a motive to generate mistrust, particularly when the spouse is afraid that the attorney outmatches his or her own attorney. If your spouse really believes your attorney is incompetent, he or she would silently cheer and not bring it to your attention. There are few altruists in divorce court. Don’t fall for it. If you have any doubts, meet with your attorney to discuss your concerns.