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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How To Be a Good Client

(And Save Yourself Money)

a. Tell me the truth. In order for me to be at my very best, I need you to tell me the whole truth about your legal matter, even if it is unpleasant, and even if you think it hurts you. Remember, our success depends on the accuracy of the information I receive.

b. Return my phone calls and emails and promptly comply with my requests. During the course of my representation, I may ask you to do some things to help me help you. At such times, please do your part and promptly comply with these requests. Remember, you are paying for my time, which includes "nag" time.
c. Tell me how you feel. I hope you will be satisfied with my work. If so, please tell me. And if for some reason, you are not satisfied, do not be afraid to tell me so that I may discuss the matter with you.

d. Ask questions. If at any time you do not understand something that is, or is not, happening, please ask questions.

e. Pay your bill timely. Remember, in order to represent you, I rely on services and staff, whom I have to pay. I have a business to run. If you do not pay your bills, my services will be terminated, no matter how much I like you. It’s not personal – it’s business.


a. My commitment is to give you my best effort. I commit to give you all of my experience, training, and energy in my representation of you.

b. To promptly return your phone calls. I understand how important it is that your phone calls be promptly returned. I will make every effort to return your call the same day, and at the latest, within 24 hours.

c. To be honest with you. I will tell you the truth as I honestly see it.

d. To keep you informed. I am aware that your legal issues are very important to you. I do not take your trust for granted, and I plan to keep you fully advised about the progress of your legal matter.

e. To tell you what is going to happen step by step. I intend to tell you as best I can what to expect before it happens, so that you are not surprised or confused.

f. To treat you with respect. You are my client, and as such, you deserve the utmost respect from your attorney.


a. Explain the law in California on issues of divorce, annulment, child custody and visitation, child support, spousal support, property division, and restraining orders. What is an annulment? What happens between filing and Judgment? What is an OSC? What is the date of separation? How much support can you expect to pay?

b. Explain procedure of the court. How long will this take? What will the Judge be like? What can you expect when you make this particular demand? Is it worth it to go to court?

c. Represent you in court. Your lawyer will be your voice. They will step into your shoes and tell your side of the story, convincingly and appropriately. They will speak the law language for you. They will pacify a grumpy Judge who doesn’t like excessive verbosity.

d. Represent you to opposing party and counsel. You are a good person. You have reasonable demands. Your lawyer will be on your side, arguing for your demands.

e. Protect your interests. You have rights defined by the law. You need to know your rights, and how to enforce them. Your lawyer is your protector.

f. Creatively argue the FACTS to best support the LAW. We can’t easily change the law, but lawyers are gifted at spinning FACTS which can get you the most you need under the law.


a. Easily Change the Law. Times change. Laws change. But let’s be realistic, will the laws change during your divorce? Probably not. The 401k you acquired during the marriage, with no prenup? That is community property. We can’t change that. Your wife isn’t working and hasn’t worked for 10 years? You need to pay spousal support. Even if she cheated on you? That’s right. You have to pay spousal support. We can’t change that. You are a stay-at-home mom with a law degree with 2 school-aged children and you never want to work a day in your life, and want to collect support forever? You will eventually need to find a job. Child support terminates at age 18, or 19 if in high school. Spousal support – depends on many other factors. But unless you find another source of support, you WILL need to find a job. We can’t change that.

b. Make Your Personal Decisions For You. I can always give excellent advice and counsel on legal issues. For example, is $2500 a fair amount of support to pay, for 10 months? Is your parenting plan reasonable under the circumstance? Can you move to Hawaii? However, I can never tell you to get divorced.

c. Speed Up the Process. You can trust me to deliver prompt service. However, I cannot control the other side. Or their lawyers. It only takes one party to drag out a case. I promise you that unless it is due to strategy, I will not purposely prolong your case. Also, I do not control the courts. I promise that I will get you the earliest mediation and court appointment. However, I can never promise you’ll get a trial date by January 2011, or an OSC date by May 2012. I do not control the court calendar.

d. Predict the Outcome with Guarantee. I have a lot of experience with the court system, and family law. It is my job, and I do it well. However, I am not God. I do not have a crystal ball, and I don’t have sixth sense. I am human, and I err. So do NOT rely on me to tell you, to absolute perfection, what will happen if we go to court.

e. Finally, We Cannot Be Your Personal, On-Call, 24/7 Advisor. We understand that your case is important to you. And we honor that. You have our word that we do not take our clients’ trust for granted. Please understand – there are other clients in your similar situations. If I am in court on the day of your emergency, I simply cannot tend to you immediately. I am very fortunate to have very competent staff, who are always here to respond to your needs. However, if you need to talk to me, you will need to make an appointment. I will do my best to get to you ASAP.

f. Understand my role and do not take me for granted. I am your lawyer. Some of my clients – I even consider my “family”. But I am NOT an on-call robot, and barring true emergencies, I cannot respond to your calls after-hours, or on the weekends. I cannot give you my cell phone number. You have my email, and during work hours, you can expect a response, same day. There are times we may look at and answer your email over the weekend, but this is generally the exception and not to be relied upon by you that we are accessible on weekend.

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