Court proceedings can be issued for a number of reasons. It could be as a result of a relationship breakdown, for recovery of a debt, to contest a will, or to seek performance of an obligation under a contract, just to name a few.
What is common is that they often cause a crisis in your personal life. Litigation is stressful and time consuming, and takes a toll on the physical and mental health of the parties. Much as a doctor provides assistance when you are ill, a lawyer provides you with guidance, assistance and advice when helping you through a legal dispute.
The following tips are designed to help you, along with your lawyer, achieve the best outcome possible.
1. Involve your lawyer early
In a previous article, we advised that the most important tip for surviving litigation is to get legal advice early in the process. This remains true, yet it is often the tip that is followed the least. If your matter can be resolved early, your legal costs will likely be significantly less than if you end up in complicated and lengthy litigation. Involving a lawyer at an early stage may open resolutions you were not aware of, or that may not be available if the matter progresses. It also allows your lawyer to lay any groundwork necessary to get you on the right path early and avoid potential issues in the future.
2. Be honest
This one is particularly frustrating for lawyers. Too often we encounter situations where a client will only provide carefully selected facts of their case, or will omit particular details for fear of ‘getting in trouble’ or because it is perceived as being unhelpful or irrelevant to their case. Whilst you may think it is helping your case, the reality is usually the opposite.
As a client, you are paying your lawyer to give you legal advice. That advice can only be based on the facts and information you give them. If you do not give your lawyer all the facts, or if you knowingly tell them a story that is different from what actually happened, your lawyer cannot give you the best advice. It is essential that you are open and honest so that your lawyer knows the whole story.
Any discussions you have with your lawyer for the purposes of giving or receiving legal advice, or in relation to legal proceedings, are subject to legal professional privilege. This means your lawyer has an obligation not to disclose that information to anybody. So there is no need to be concerned with disclosing certain information to your lawyer, even if it is unhelpful to your case or of a sensitive nature.
3. Be organised
In guiding you through the litigation process, your lawyer will undoubtedly ask you a number of questions and seek information from you. This will often include requests for documents or other information. You should ensure that all documents relevant to your matter are easily accessible so that you can provide them quickly and easily as required. If your lawyer suggests meeting face-to-face to discuss your matter, you should bring any relevant documents with you.
Similarly, if you are required to attend a court hearing, ensure you are well-presented and that you arrive on time. Whilst these may seem like minor details, they all contribute to your lawyer being able to present your case in the best possible manner.
4. Maintain good communication
Litigious matters have a number of deadlines that must be met, and failing to do so can have a detrimental impact on your case. Maintaining open communication with your lawyer is therefore very important. You need to be available to correspond with your lawyer – either by email or telephone. It is almost impossible for a lawyer to meet deadlines if they cannot contact you to obtain instructions.
Similarly, if you don’t understand the advice being given to you, or you have a query about your matter, do not hesitate to ask your lawyer questions. They are there specifically to assist you, provide advice and make sure you understand what is happening.
However, it is important that you find the right balance. There is no benefit to be gained from sending your lawyer an email, and then calling them immediately after to do nothing more than relay the content of that email. Doing so results in unnecessary costs for you.
As mentioned above, it is also important that you are honest when communicating with your lawyer. It is better that your lawyer knows about potential issues with your case so that they can develop strategies to deal with those issues as needed.
5. Take the advice on board
At the end of the day, you are paying your lawyer to give you advice. Far too often we encounter situations where clients will pay for advice on their situation, only to get upset or angry when the advice is not what they want to hear. The obvious example is when we give advice not to proceed with a claim. This might be done, for example, either because legally the claim is not very strong or the legal costs are likely to outweigh the potential benefits. While your lawyer can provide the advice, it is ultimately the client’s decision as to how they would like to proceed.
You do not necessarily need to accept your lawyer’s advice, and just as you may seek a second opinion from a doctor before having surgery, you are entitled to seek a second legal opinion from another lawyer.
However, consider that your lawyer is giving you that advice for a reason. Whilst it is sensible that you ask questions about it and raise any queries or concerns you may have, it is important that you are open to receiving whatever advice is given. The unfortunate reality is that whilst it will not always be what you want to hear, the advice you receive from your lawyer should be based on their significant experience with litigation and given with your best interests in mind.
To speak to a member of our litigation team, please call our office on (08) 8414 3400.
This article was written by Assiociate Duncan Soang
Practice Area: Court Litigation & Dispute Resolution