Dealing with lawyers is not much fun – usually you only have to speak to a lawyer when there is a problem. There is a strong temptation is to assume the lawyer can take over and deal with everything for you. Unfortunately, that is not the case – the best lawyer is only as good as the information the lawyer has and that information comes from you. And even then it is you who makes the big decisions – you are the boss and the lawyer presents you with options and not answers. You have to remain fully involved at all times!
That said, here are some pointers that can help make everything go smoothly.
. Prepare for the initial meeting. It is very common for people to come see me with plastic bags full of paper; as a lawyer I probably will need to read all that paper but having it higgledy–piggledy makes it almost impossible to figure it out. Try to put all the paperwork in chronological order. If you have a story to tell make some notes so you don't forget anything. If there are people who have extra information the lawyer will need try to write down their contact information.
2. Be thorough. Your lawyer does not want to be buried in irrelevant stuff but if in doubt give more information rather than less. Details make a big difference in law – if you are charged with stealing your brother's car, the fact your brother gave you an extra key to the car two years ago may be very very important.
3. Be truthful. Anything you tell your lawyer is confidential. And if your lawyer is going to be able to help your lawyer needs to know what really happened. If you got drunk and had sex with someone you should not have had sex with it's embarrassing but misleading your lawyer will help you not at all. I think of it a bit like going to a doctor – sometimes you have to tell a doctor you did something that is not very nice – but you tell the doctor anyway.
4. Make sure you understand. Sometimes lawyers use very confusing language. If you get confused ask the lawyer to explain what they mean – this is your life and it is very important you understand what is going on and what are your options. The lawyer may tell you stuff you don't want to hear but it's important you understand your situation properly so you can make decisions that work for you.
5. Keep the lawyer up-to-date. Things are bound to change. And when they do, it's important to update your lawyer. If you are in the middle of a family case and your former spouse moves out of town let your lawyer know. If you get seriously sick let the lawyer know.
A lawyer works for you but the lawyer can only work properly if you and the lawyer share all information and have a totally candid and frank understanding of what is going on. Be clear, direct and tell the truth.