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Good Counsel: How to Get What You Need from Your Lawyer

How can I help with my case?

Check with your lawyer before doing anything you think might be helpful to your case to ensure that your actions will be useful and done in a way that is really productive. As a general rule, collecting, organizing, and indexing recent financial records may be helpful. Keeping a log of your expenses and expenditures with back-up receipts or statements also may assist your lawyer. Likewise, your lawyer may want you to maintain a custody planning calendar or log reflecting when each parent is to be responsible for the children or should attend their activities or events.

Can I bring a relative or friend along when meeting with my lawyer?

That is usually not a good idea. The discussions you have with your lawyer for the purposes of receiving legal advice are confidential. Including another person in the discussions waives that confidentiality and means that you, your lawyer, or the third person could be compelled to disclose the substance of your conversation in court. Family law matters frequently involve embarrassing or private details of your personal or financial relationships. Your lawyer may need to ask about matters that you would rather not discuss with a friend or relative in the room.

Can I change lawyers?

Yes, you have the right to work with the lawyer of your choice. However, if your case is complex, keep in mind that you may incur additional expenses due to the time needed for your new lawyer to get up to speed. In addition, expect to address any issue of unpaid fees with your first lawyer before he or she turns over the file to your new lawyer.

My spouse had a great lawyer last time we separated, and then we reconciled. Can I hire her this time?

No. Ethical considerations prohibit a lawyer’s switching sides in this fashion. In fact, a lawyer who met with your spouse about the divorce but was not retained is probably also precluded from representing you.

I have some cash I don’t want to disclose or share with my spouse. Can my lawyer help me with that?

No. Your lawyer has an ethical obligation to be honest and truthful about issues relevant to the outcome of the case. He or she also has a duty to advise you to do the same. In fact, your lawyer may be obligated to withdraw from the case if he or she knows you are concealing assets or otherwise being dishonest.

My attorney is attractive. Can we date?

No. You need your attorney to give you objective information about your case, your odds of success, a case strategy, and the like. A social relationship between the two of you will compromise that objectivity. In addition, in most circumstances, attorneys are ethically prohibited from engaging in sexual relationships with clients.

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