Tip # 1 - Be honest with your lawyer. Dealing with the unexpected - something you have kept hidden from your lawyer - can be costly.
Tip # 2 - Ask questions if you don't understand something your lawyer says. This is not a time to be shy or afraid of sounding uninformed. You need to understand the information and advice your lawyer gives you, so that you can make decisions and instruct your lawyer on what you want to do.
Tip # 3 - Be clear about what you expect your lawyer to do for you. Don't make the mistake of talking about "A," when you are hoping for "B."
Tip # 4 - Make sure your lawyer is right for you. You need to be able to communicate easily with your lawyer, to feel comfortable asking questions and to feel confident that you can work together to accomplish your goals.
Tip # 5 - Make a list of questions you have or information you want to give your lawyer before you call or meet. By being prepared, you can make the best use of your time and make sure you don't forget anything. Limiting the number and length of phone calls to your lawyer can save you money.
Tip # 6 - Discuss money with your lawyer. You need to have a clear idea of how much your lawyer's services will cost and what factors will affect the total cost. Ask what you can do to keep fees and other costs down.
Tip # 7 - Check carefully the "terms of engagement" letter your lawyer sends you. If you are not sure of something in the letter or it does not say what you want, don't wait to talk to your lawyer about it. You both need to be clear on what your lawyer will be doing for you.
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Tip # 8 - Talk to your lawyer when you have a problem with the service you are receiving or a concern about your case. Problems cannot be solved if you keep them to yourself. If something is bothering or upsetting you, tell your lawyer.
Tip # 9 - Review the bill you receive right away. If you believe it reflects the agreement you made with your lawyer, pay it according to your agreement. If you have concerns about it, discuss it with your lawyer immediately. If you and your lawyer cannot reach an agreement, look into taxation or mediation without delay.
Tip # 10 - Be realistic about what a lawyer can do for you. Lawyers and Barristers have legal knowledge and expertise that can help you with legal problems. They cannot move mountains, magically return your life to what it was like before the accident or make the spouse you are divorcing a different person.
Quote and Tips from Great Expectations: A Lawyer-Client Handbook produced by the Canadian Bar Association, with sponsorship from the Canadian Bar Insurance Association.
A Guide to a Successful Interview with a Lawyer is useful for preparing for your first visit.
The information about the Court applies to Canada not Australia. But it is good at explaining how useful to have all your details and paperwork organised beforehand.
The Commissioner handles all complaints about solicitors and barristers. They also provide information about legal costs and assist in resolving disputes between you and your lawyer.
75 Castlereagh Street
Sydney NSW 2000
GPO Box 4460
Sydney NSW 2001
DX 359 Sydney
Telephone (02) 9377 1800
Facsimile (02) 9377 1888
Freecall: 1800 242 958 (Australia only)
TTY (02) 9377 1855
You should tell your lawyer if you are unhappy with any services. Don't wait until the end of the case to voice your concerns. The sooner you tell your lawyer what is bothering you, the sooner your concerns can be resolved. Often, the problem is a simple misunderstanding that can be cleared up in one frank conversation.
Lawyers often seem to take a long time to handle work. In in some cases this is not their fault. Instead it is the result of the complexity of legal proceedings. Often delays are caused by other parties, or problems in getting matters heard in court because of a backlog of court cases - a particular problem in family law matters.
If your concern is about having telephone calls returned or communication, then make an appointment to see the lawyer. If necessary write your lawyer a letter. (Keep a copy for your records.) If there is a Senior Partner in the firm, make contact with them and let them know what is going on.
If you remain dissatisfied after trying to work something out with your lawyer, or if your lawyer does not pay attention to your concerns or does not try to find a solution to them, you have the right to make a complaint to the Legal Services Commissioner. If you are almost at that point, then you might let your lawyer know that this is the next step that you are considering. That will certainly get their attention!