“The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers”
An often-misquoted phrase from Henry VI, Part 2, Act 4, Scene 2 for those who would like to follow this further. It’s frequently used by those who seek to denigrate the profession or are simply unhappy with their present lawyer.
However, a closer reading of that particular passage in Shakespeare will enlighten the misguided. In fact, Shakespeare is acknowledging that for any autocrat to prosper, it is necessary to remove freedom. That of course, is one of the fundamental purposes of the lawyer and the law, to protect the rights of the individual.
So, let me implore you, before you take up the cudgels, to stop and have a better understanding of how best to deal with your lawyer so you will not be tempted to use or paraphrase this quote.
Over the years, I, and many other lawyers, have been placed in a position where a client will provide a very much foreshortened version of their instructions, favouring only their point of view, and leaving out many salient and relevant facts. Alternatively, they will present us with a huge box of unsorted documents and other forms of communication.
In the first case it forces us to spend a great deal more time trying to elicit the whole story. In the second case, wading through a large box of documents not in any particular order also takes time. In both cases, its effectively a waste of your time as a client, because it is occupying our time, which does not normally come all that cheaply.
So, the first step to ensure you are paying the minimal amount of money is to be organised when you consult your lawyer. In most cases, a brief summary, followed by a chronological history of events, is extremely useful and will enable your lawyer to get to the point.
Perhaps the second thing that needs greater clarification is that before your lawyer can provide you with an estimate of fees, and I strongly recommend that you discuss and understand how your fees are calculated and exactly what they are for, your lawyer will need to understand both the nature and scope of your instructions. If the initial question is how much it will cost, the answer is basically, “how long is a piece of string?”.
In some circumstances, particularly in litigation, and in the emotionally-charged area of family law, it is of course difficult to come up with a price to cover the totality. Whatever it may be, in both situations, conduct of the matter is much akin to peeling an onion. After one layer comes the next, and so on.
It’s impossible to predict exactly what the other side is going to do, or how they will react to communications from your side, and the responses which must be addressed accordingly. It is however possible to provide estimates to certain waypoints.
The third and final thing I would like to say about dealing with your lawyer is ensure that you feel confident in their ability. Particularly their ability to communicate with you in language you can understand. If they fail in any one of the three points, and they are certainly not in any way exclusive to other attributes of your lawyer, then perhaps you might reconsider Shakespeare’s quote or find another lawyer. •