1. Identify your issue.

It’s important to explain your story and communicate the facts of your case clearly. Sometimes, facts are painful. It’s very tough to tell an attorney, police officer, doctor, nurse or court reporter anything when you’re in pain and shock. In times of crisis, we do the best we can. For cases like estate planning and others when we have a bit more time to plan, it’s good to organize your thoughts on a piece of paper, gather your documents and tell your story so your attorney can identify what the issue is they can help with.

Tips: (1) prepare an email with the facts for your attorney in advance, (2) gather relevant documents, such as letters, emails, photos, etc. (3) gather a list of names of the people who are familiar with the facts in case the attorney wants to speak with them after they speak to you.

2. Set your budget for legal fees in advance and tell the attorney.

As a client, it’s important to tell the attorney how much you can afford to pay for legal services. It’s also important for the attorney to provide you with their fee schedule up front so you know what you will spend to hire them. Each attorney works differently in the State of Florida, so it’s important to explain if you have a budget and ask the attorney about their fees. A good resource for clients is The Florida Bar’s Consumer Pamphlet which is readily available on floridabar.org for consumers. It explains how attorneys are paid in the State.

Tips: (1) ask the attorney for their fee agreement, (2) explain your budget, (3) read the consumer pamphlet on fees from The Florida Bar, (4) Know your sources for free legal services should you qualify such as your local bar association, legal aid and The Florida Bar referral service.

3. Plan your strategy.

It’s important to have a strategic plan for your case. If you don’t know where you’re going, you don’t know where you’re landing. It’s important for you and the attorney to discuss your goals and steps to achieve them. It’s similarly important to work collaboratively with your attorney and make sure you stay on the same page. If you change your goals, be sure to tell your attorney so they understand and can plan and advise you accordingly.

Tips: (1) Meet with your attorney as needed to establish your strategic plan, (2) follow up and communicate effectively, (3) Be sure you’re on the same page.

4. Show your cards under confidentiality to your attorney.

‘Hidden facts’ are important because every fact potentially affects a case. When a client unintentionally or intentionally misses a fact and the ‘other side’ knows it, it’s not very good. This may happen in a deposition when a client is testifying in front of opposing counsel and the court reporter. Attorneys need to hear first-hand from their own clients what the facts are so they are prepared to represent them well.

Tips: (1) If you forget to tell your own attorney something, please tell them. (2) If you think something or someone will refresh your memory, please tell your attorney.

5. Don’t bypass your attorney. You’re on the same side.

It’s very frustrating when clients communicate the facts of their case with third parties outside of an attorney’s specific advisory not to do so. Certain communications can and will affect the attorney-client communication privilege. It’s critical that clients obtain consent from their attorneys BEFORE they communicate with third parties.

Tips: (1) Review rules of confidentiality with your attorney.