Here are some tips on how to work best with your legal team to ensure your case is handled as smoothly and effectively as possible.
Technology has changed both the ways in which we get instructions from our clients, and how we serve our clients. It is not necessary, as it may have been in the past, for our clients to make frequent visits to our office, and we try to minimize the number of appointments that are needed. We encourage you to use the telephone, e-mail and fax to communicate with us as much as possible.
Our preferred way of communicating on your file will be e-mail. If you have e-mail that you can rely on for private, confidential communications, we can make arrangements to use e-mail to communicate with you, including sending you letters, accounts and copies of the material we send and receive on your file.
Although we would encourage you to use e-mail as the primary method of communicating with us, we remind you that for urgent contact, the telephone is preferable. You can learn from the telephone whether your lawyer is in the office and available to help you that day. If your lawyer is not there or available, someone else in the firm may be able to help you. As such it is important to provide as much detail as possible when you are leaving messages.
You may be asked to provide our office with written material, in the course of our work for you. This is often an efficient way to get historical or detailed information from you in order to prepare court documents. The written material you provide will be extremely helpful, may be able to be used in several aspects of your case, and will result in greater efficiency for us.
This firm returns all telephone calls and wherever possible, on the same day. Except for emergencies, calls are usually returned in the order they are received. Our lawyers’ assistants deal with as many of the telephone calls as possible, so that the lawyers are free to perform work that only a lawyer can do. This is in your financial interest, so that your legal fees are kept as reasonable as possible.
This firm has a 24 hour answering service for calls made outside of our business hours. You can leave a detailed confidential message.
It is very helpful to us, and it is in your financial interest, that you leave the purpose of your call with any message, be it on our service or with one of the assistants. For example, if you are looking for a status report, the assistant can probably give you the information you need. But the assistants are not lawyers, and cannot give legal advice.
Our lawyers are litigation lawyers, which means they are often in court. When they are in court, and particularly, involved in a trial, it may not be possible for your lawyer to personally return telephone calls. An assistant will deal with your enquiries during these times.
Lawyers and law clerks charge for the time they spend. You will be charged for all your contact with your lawyer and law clerk, including telephone calls, voicemail and faxes. Your call may be directed first to an assistant. If the purpose of your telephone call is to obtain specific information or provide information (for example, have we received a certain document yet from the other side?), that contact can be with the lawyer’s assistant.
There is a cost to you for every contact you have with your lawyer and law clerk, so it is in your financial interest to make your contact with your lawyer valuable to both you and the firm. You should think of telephone calls with your lawyer as though they were long distance calls, for which you are billed by the minute. Where possible, minimize the contact you have with your lawyer, unless the purpose of your contact can only be satisfied by a discussion with him or her directly.
Organize yourself before you phone, and ensure you have all the information you need available for the telephone call. Also, consider taking notes during your meetings and telephone call with our office. This is common sense, and good business.
If you don’t currently own an answering machine at home or have a voice-mail system, we suggest that you get one now. We need to be able to reach you promptly, and if it is difficult or time-consuming to reach you by telephone, it may even cost you more money in legal fees. If you are not reachable through electronic mail and don’t currently own a fax machine, but may be getting a fax machine soon, now is a good time to get one. We have found that we can serve our clients who have email, faster and cheaper, particularly with regard to the drafting of documents. It may also result in fewer trips to our office for you to review material, or give us instructions. It will also reduce the cost to you of couriers, which are sometimes needed when timelines are short.
Initial consultations require an appointment.
Certain aspects of litigation are crisis oriented, and on occasion, lawyers are called to court on short notice, or are required to stay in court longer than they expected. Consequently, on occasion, appointments may have to be rescheduled or even cancelled on short notice. Every effort will be made to provide you with as much notice as possible, should that be necessary. If you are booking an appointment on a day that is a court day, it is a good idea to confirm the appointment with the office that day.
If you have questions about your accounts, (either regarding fees or disbursements) please direct all inquiries first to our Office Manager, Elizabeth.
The more work you do for yourself, the less work you will need done by the lawyer. If you can save time for the lawyer, it may save you money in fees.
Anytime you are giving our office a collection of documents (court documents or financial documents, for example) it is in your financial interest to put those documents in chronological order first, and to prepare an index or list of the material you are giving us. If you do this, it will reduce the work needed by us to organize the material. It is the first thing we will do when we receive the documents.
Come to your meetings and any telephone calls with our office prepared, possibly with a list of questions or subject areas you need to have covered.
What is the Lawyer’s Job?
Our office will help you by providing leadership to you in a difficult time. This leadership means providing direction to you, to help you to identify and eliminate the risks and dangers in your situation, as well as to help you understand your options and opportunities. It means working with you to design a plan to help you make progress and achieve success in the areas of your life where you are looking for legal advice. You will be the one to make the decisions. One of the goals of this leadership is to help you experience ever-increasing confidence and independence, so you can look more optimistically at the path that you will take through personal difficulties to a more positive future.
We will keep you informed about matters as they arise and discuss with you any significant decisions that you are required to make. We will provide you with our best legal advice, but ultimately you will make the final decisions and provide us with instructions.
The Conduct of Your Case
Most of our clients do not want their case to go to court. Most would like to negotiate a settlement. That is not always possible. It is not in your interest to negotiate on an open-ended basis, as that does not always accomplish a cost-efficient resolution. Some long negotiations end up costing more than it would’ve cost to simply start the court case. If no progress is being made (and particularly if we have not received the other side’s financial disclosure) we will start a court case. This is a tactical decision (when to start the court case) and it is a decision that the lawyers make. We will also decide, in consultation with you, which lawyer attends court.
If you are transferring your file to us from another lawyer, it will be necessary for us to review the correspondence and documentation provided and ensure that it is complete and organized. You will be billed for this time spent, and for any time spent organizing the material received. You can minimize this expense by making sure that the material from your previous lawyer is put in chronological order.
If you are transferring your file to another lawyer from us, you need to remember that you will have already been sent copies of all letters and court documents during our work for you. You should keep them organized, as this may make such a transfer to another lawyer quicker and cheaper. If you have not kept the copies we sent you, we will provide copies of the correspondence between solicitors and copies of any court documents (again), and as well, the originals of any of your personal documentation. You will be billed for the time involved in preparing the file for transfer. If we have to make additional paper copies of material we have already sent you, you will be billed for that, as well.
All information you provide to our office is completely private and confidential. All the details of your case will be handled with the utmost confidentiality and respect for your privacy. The privilege of confidentiality between solicitor and client is, in law, a protection which belongs to the client. Therefore, it is up to the client, only, whether or not that confidentiality is to be waived.
Please remember this when your family members or friends request information directly from your lawyer. We are frequently contacted by new partners, or other family members who want to discuss your case. You have to give your lawyer specific instructions to permit that discussion to take place. Also, as the time spent by your lawyer will be time spent on your file, you will be billed for any time spent discussing your case with anyone at your request, or in the context of your file.