By: Melissa L. Exline, Esq.
No. 10 Use email, it is a good tool to document what you convey to your attorney. You have a searchable source for what you said and what the lawyer’s response was. By the way, lawyers search these too and review them to make sure they have addressed things you have relayed to them.
No. 9 Start seeing a therapist if you are losing it emotionally. First, they are generally covered by insurance. And second, a therapist charges much less than a lawyer to address your needs. Use someone that is specifically trained to address the emotional trauma you are dealing with.
No. 8 Write down your questions and other things you want to tell your lawyer as they come to mind, and combine them into a single email to your lawyer to save on fees. Piecemeal emails or calls are a way to eat up your retainer. When your lawyer pulls up your file, it is better to address 5 things and have it done at once than pay for 5 separate incidents of billing
No. 7 Be organized. This might sound like a given, but the more organized you are, the easier it is for your lawyer and their staff. Have a file that you make just for the case noting what you gave to your lawyer, when, and why. This saves money.
No. 6 Respond to your lawyer. Do this even if you don’t have an answer yet. In fact, say that you don’t have an answer yet and you plan to look into it shortly (or, whenever that might be and follow up). As an attorney, I’m always amazed at how often I am ignored when I need to get things done in a case and I need the client to be ready to respond with answers, documents, notes, etc. You are paying your lawyer to ask these questions of you, and you will pay again when they ask you twice for the same thing because you failed to respond or respond fully. Avoid that common mistake.
No. 5 By the way, if you tend to ignore your lawyer, don’t turn around and demand instant responses (absent an emergency that is). Generally, good lawyers are busy with more than one client and most will respond accordingly and in due time. If you are freaking out, refer back to tip No. 9.
No. 4 Take notes. When you are having a meeting with your lawyer in person or on the phone, write it down (or follow up with an email!). It helps to make sure everyone is on the same page.
No. 3 Keep a calendar specifically about your divorce/custody case. This can parse out the negativity of the divorce from your normal daily routine and free you to look at your normal calendar with less anxiety. Certain big dates will have to be on your normal calendar, but the day-to-day issues can be on a separate calendar while you are in the process of dealing with litigation.
No. 2 Don’t create false emergencies. By this I mean, you want answers by a deadline you create that is not demanded by the situation itself. Everyone wants answers and, certainly, we want them sooner rather than later. If you do this, it creates letters and paper flying back and forth – but it does not mean you get the answers you want when you want them. You do get a bill and stir up activity, but that legal activity could be to your detriment.
No. 1 Say “Thank You” once in a while. It is such a small thing but goes so far! I love helping clients and I go out of my way to help those that I know are genuinely appreciative.