DO – come prepared to any meeting including your initial consultation.  Ask before your appointment what material might assist in making your consultation educational and productive.  On booking the meeting, ask if there are handouts or information forms available from the lawyer or his or her staff that may assist you in your preparation

DON’T – expect the lawyer to have reviewed material you send in before your first appointment or retaining the lawyer, unless specific arrangements have been made

DO – use your time with your lawyer wisely.  In most cases, “time is money” –for both you and your lawyer.  Answer your lawyer’s questions succinctly.  If you don’t know the answer, do not guess.  Do not be embarrassed – the answers can usually be found, especially in financial matters.  Guessing only leads to extra work.

DON’T – be nervous, afraid or anxious.  If you are uncomfortable and continue to have a lack of confidence in the  relationship with the lawyer, no matter what his or her reputation may be, he or she may not be a good fit for you. Also, do not forget to ask about other settlement methods – moving from a litigation route to mediation or mediation/arbitration, may change everyone’s demeanour and attitude. If the fit is still not there,  review your options – and let the lawyer know your feelings.

DO – ensure that you are apprised of all ongoing communication between your lawyer and the other side

DON’T – try to make friends with your lawyer, send multiple emails every time you think of things (together with “LOL” and smiley faces).  Do not think your constant calls or emails will speed things up as the “squeaky wheel gets the grease”. This is not only costly, but also unreasonable if you have retained reputable counsel.  Competent counsel will work diligently with you but usually in a priority schedule and also are subject to other party’s dates, mediator availability, court dates, disclosure and production and other circumstances beyond the lawyer’s control.

DO – treat your lawyer’s staff with respect

DON’T – forget to keep your lawyer and his or her staff up to date with any changes in your life such as phone number, cell number ,email, address, job and financial changes and your living arrangements

DO – talk about payments and finances.  Legal representation is expensive. If you are honest about your ability to pay, arrangements can be made in advance – do not wait until you owe the law firm a large amount to be honest – do it at the beginning.  Changing or losing lawyers mid stream can be costly.

DON’T – react to threats from the other side such as “my lawyer says your lawyer……’ or my lawyer always beats your lawyer” – these are simply childish sandbox tactics.  Develop your relationship with your lawyer and don’t be intimidated.  Also, try to avoid the Friday at 5 reaction when there is a threat. This too will pass.

DO – provide all the information (not everything else in your file cabinet) that the lawyer asks for.  This is usually a request for evidence.  Law relies on evidence – not estimates and guesses.  The faster and more clear your material is, the cheaper your fees will be.  It may also help for you to keep a binder with your material and the material provided by the lawyer in an organized fashion.

DON’T – litigate or argue on principle.  Your legal case is based on facts and law, not, fortunately or unfortunately, as you may see it, on morality or fairness.

DO – keep open dialogue with your lawyer and firm.  All parties involved in your matter recognize this. Your lawyer should make you feel respected and valued, but is not trained in your emotional issues.  While being empathetic,  he or she ought to remain professional and fixed on the facts and law.  Good counsel know when their area of expertise is at a limit and ought to be able to refer you to other sources for your needs.

DON’T – be concerned if your lawyer wants to bring in a further consultant – whether a therapist for the children or an accountant or other type of lawyer such as a corporate lawyer or estate counsel.  Knowing one’s limits and recognizing red flags are important qualities of good counsel.

Your relationship with your lawyer ought to professional, reasonably meet your expectations and be a diligent advocate for you.  Remember, there is no perfection in law.  Make sure there is a game plan and your lawyer apprises you of all steps and the cost/benefit analysis of proceeding in the manner recommended.  Be open, honest and respectful and you ought to receive these qualities in return.