An important aspect of any case is the attorney client relationship. The core facts and the cause of the action will obviously be of the utmost importance, but an unhealthy attorney client relationship can undermine even the strongest case.
A mutual respect must be provided yet earned at the beginning of a case.
A client selects an attorney for various reasons (reputation, referral, previous representation, etc) and a respect of the attorney’s abilities is or should be high on the list. An attorney should never accept a client if they do not respect the case, the facts, but also the client as an individual. If at the first moments of a case there isn’t respect for a client, the case is on the road to ultimate failure.
Cases have a life span if undetermined length. Most domestic/divorce cases can last nine (9) to twelve (12) months. With a case of such length the emotions for a client can vary from great peaks to deep valleys. It is imperative that an individual avoids such an emotional rollercoaster. A key ally in maintaining an emotional even keel is a strong foundation found in your relationship with your attorney. Your attorney should be available to you at moments when you need emotional support and they should prevent you from getting to emotionally high as well.
I practice with the belief that I should be available via email and cell phone at all reasonable hours. An attorney needs to let their client feel secure in the feeling they are united in the pursuit if the client’s goals. A client who feels they are alone will soon question their attorney’s commitment to the case.
An attorney has a duty to control a client’s expectations. Any healthy and mutually respected relationship is forged on honesty and openness. A client will soon devalue their attorney if the attorney becomes a “yes man”. Attorneys must be forthright and communicate weaknesses and danger areas of the case. Without these frank discussions, clients will inevitably lose trust in their attorney and ultimately will have resentment if the case falls apart of if the case is lost. An attorney who properly educates a client on these areas will create a better relationship with their client and the client will take any result far better if they are properly prepared.
Clients also have tremendous responsibility in making sure the attorney client relationship is strong and healthy. While the attorney may be the “professional”, many cases are lost by a client’s attitude and not being open and honest with their attorney. Clients need to know that anything said to their attorney is considered confidential. With that basic premise, there is no excuse for a client to hide key facts from their attorney. In domestic/divorce cases clients who fail to fully inform their attorney of personal and/or financial facts will take a huge risk in “losing” their case. Safe to say, a client’s opposing party most likely has all the information the client is hiding from their attorney. As one may imagine, there is almost nothing worse for any an attorney than damaging information being revealed at trial. There is no time to prepare or recover and the effect on the case is devastating. Clients can apologize afterwards, but the regret of losing the case based on lack of honesty and trust will haunt clients for an undeterminable amount of time. The key is to always keep your attorney informed with all information relevant to your case. A mutual respect between the attorney and the client can provide a great advantage over your opponent on the road to a successful case.