Don’t Settle for Good Legal Advice
When you see a lawyer do you expect good legal advice? If good legal advice is all you expect, that is the most you will get. I think people should expect and receive the BEST legal advice. Getting the best legal advice starts with choosing a lawyer who thinks there is a difference between good advice and the best advice for each client. In a previous article for the Tri-County Active Adult Center newsletter published October 2015, I offered suggestions for finding the right lawyer for your legal needs. That article titled, Be Picky About Picking a Lawyer, can be found on my law firm’s website.
Once you choose a lawyer, getting the best advice can be achieved if you and your lawyer work to have a trusting relationship and effective communication. This article deals with your lawyer’s role to achieve those things. My article on the client role, Want the Best Legal Advice? Here is Your Role, is also on our website.
Your lawyer’s role involves the following skills.
Knowledge of the Law. It is a lawyer’s obligation to be honest with you about his knowledge and experience dealing with your legal situation. If you have any doubts, ask.
Attentive Listening. A lawyer has a duty to carefully listen to what you tell him. It is important to get your information and appreciate how you perceive your situation. Studies have clearly shown that when a person’s attention is divided he hears and understands less of what he is trying to take in. Interruptions and multi-tasking during a conversation with a client is not effective communication. You deserve to be fully heard and understood.
Questions. An experienced lawyer knows what facts are legally most important in a certain situation. Facts are often perceived differently by different people. A lawyer should ask questions to determine how you and others see the situation.
Understand What You Want. A lawyer cannot give you the best legal advice unless he knows what you want to achieve. Are you seeking damages, a change of another’s actions or perhaps simple affirmation? Legal advice and strategy can vary a great deal depending on your goal.
Give a Clear Explanation. It is a lawyer’s duty to be understood. Often this means, “Don’t talk like a lawyer.” People learn information differently and often learn best when it is presented in a way that involves more than one of the senses; hearing, sight, touch, smell, speech. The best advice is given so it engages two or more senses. Giving a client advice verbally and following up in writing is one example. Using visual images and written text along with an oral presentation is often a good tool in business and estate planning situations.
Discuss All Options. Clients deserve to hear all legal options available to them so a lawyer should always discuss the options and then offer his recommendation of which appears best to meet the client’s goals. Studies show this type of advice is highly valued by clients.
Confirm Your Understanding. A lawyer should ask if you fully understand the advice given. Studies have shown that people are often reluctant to ask professional advisors questions about advice given even if they do not fully understand. To make sure you have his best advice, your lawyer should ask you for questions and even if don’t ask, repeat the advice using different words and examples. Then he should ask if you would like to have his advice put in writing.
All of these skills create effective communication and the advice that if offered is more likely to be valued and followed by a client. This is what makes the best advice.