When I started working for Stacey’s firm in 2014, I had many years of administrative experience and was excited to help our clients, but I had no legal background. I quickly ramped up my legal knowledge by asking lots of questions, while speaking to potential clients and assisting current clients with their legal questions and needs.
What I quickly learned is that unless you have a legal background, working with an attorney can be confusing. And this makes sense! Attorneys have spent many years learning the very specific tools of their trade, to handle legal issues that the average person does not have the background or education to manage effectively or successfully. I think our team does an excellent job of explaining the process of legal work, both in consultations and in writing, but I still see clients become confused. Ideally, this leads them to request clarification on processes important to their legal work, but unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen.
To assist, I have come up with a few time and money saving tips for potential clients looking into working with an attorney:
- Be as thorough as possible. If your attorney asks you to complete an intake form of any kind at the start of your working relationship, complete everything you can, as thoroughly as you can. The more vague or incomplete your responses, the more questions your attorney will have, which creates more back and forth, which costs you money.
- Go into it with a plan. Before you begin working with an attorney, have a clear plan in mind. Your attorney can assist you with business structure or whatever estate planning documents are best for you, but you know your estate or business idea better than anyone. Enter into your legal relationship with at least a strong idea of what you’d like to accomplish, and share that with your attorney at the beginning.
- READ EVERYTHING. This cannot be emphasized enough. I can’t begin to count all the times clients have asked questions about processes and charges that are clearly spelled out in our documents and letters previously sent to them. Although communications related to questions about charges a client incurs are not billed themselves, a client’s confusion will inevitably lead to at least one charge that could have been avoided by reading through our Legal Services Agreement or New Client Letter.
- Be organized. This is especially important for our probate clients. If you are the executor of an estate, you have a big responsibility, and being organized is going to help greatly in the long run. Keep an electronic (or paper) file of everything you receive. If it will help you, note due dates on a calendar. This leads me to my final tip…
- Be proactive. Don’t wait for your attorney to follow up. If they’re having to follow up with you, most likely that means they’re charging you for the time it took to do so. If you need more time to review a document or track down missing information, let them know. If you have a question, don’t sit on it until it turns into an issue. Keep the lines of communication going both ways.
As your partners in legal work, we truly want to make the process of working with a law firm as easy and efficient as possible. Hopefully, these tips will help!
Photo credit: houstondwiPhotos mp on Flickr
This post is for informational purposes and does not contain or convey legal advice. The information herein should not be used or relied upon in regard to any particular facts or circumstances without first consulting with an attorney.