Top 3 ways to get the most value out of your lawyer
At Labour Rights Law, we pride ourselves on being approachable and helping clients from all walks of life. These are two of the reasons why we offer free, half-hour consultations to talk to clients and help them with their employment, labour, and human rights issues.
But how can clients get the most out of their first consultation? And, afterwards, how can they help make sure they get the best value for their legal fees?
Most lawyers, including the lawyers at Labour Rights Law, bill by the hour. Because of this, clients can get the most value out of their lawyer by cutting down the time the lawyer needs to spend to help them with their legal issues. Below, we suggest three easy ways for clients to do just that.
#1: Write to your lawyer about what you need help with and what’s happened
Lawyers are fast readers. We do it for a living. So usually the fastest way for us to understand what you’re asking, and what’s happened, is to write it down for us to read.
First, write down what the issue is and what questions you want answered.
Second, write down a “timeline” of what’s happened. In other words, write down all the important things that happened – starting at the beginning and moving to the present. Use dates, names, and places. Attach important documents, like employment contracts or settlement offers.
Try not to use legal terms to say what’s happened. For example, don’t say someone was “harassing” you at work, or you were “discriminated” against. Instead, explain exactly what happened – again, using dates, names, and places.
Labour Rights Law has a space in its intake form for new clients to tell us what they’re looking for help with. Here’s an example of what a good description might look like:
I’m a 35 year-old accountant. I was just fired from my job and I want to know if the severance offer they’ve made is fair. I think there may have been some issues with me leaving work to take care of my fifteen year-old son, Tim. Tim was recently diagnosed recently with cancer. Here’s a timeline of what happened:
- 13 December 2010: I started my job at Broach Publishing as an accountant. When I started, I made $60,000 a year and did mostly sales. My employment contract is attached.
- 15 January 2017: I was promoted to manager on and got a raise to $80,000. My duties changed a lot. Instead of doing just sales, I was hiring and firing people, and sat in on manager’s meetings about policy. I didn’t sign a new contract.
- Early February 2020: my son Tim got sick and he was diagnosed with cancer. I told my boss, Mr. Peterson, right away.
- 15 February 2020: I asked Mr. Peterson if I could leave early twice a week to drive Tim to his appointments. Peterson said no. My wife, Angela, made arrangements for her sister to help out instead, and, when she couldn’t, take time off her work to do it.
- 20 April 2020: I left work early to drive Tim to the hospital. It was an emergency; he was really sick and couldn’t get a hold of Angela. I didn’t have time to tell Mr. Peterson before I left.
- 21 April 2020: I told Mr. Peterson that I had to leave early the previous day when I got back into work. I had driven my son to the hospital, but he’d been discharged that night. I told Mr. Peterson about me leaving early as I passed by his office. Peterson said that it was ok, but that I should have sent him an email. He said it was company policy, even if it’s an emergency. I apologized, saying I wasn’t thinking, but that I’d be sure to do that if it happened again. Mr. Peterson said thanks, I understand, and went back to his work.
- 24 April 2020: Mr. Peterson called me into his office just before 5PM and gave me my letter of termination. The letter didn’t mention anything about my son or me leaving early. Broach Publishing offered me four months salary if I sign a release, and says by law they only owe me eight weeks. I’ve attached the letter and the release. The letter says I have to sign by May 8 2020 or the settlement offer is revoked.
#2: Let your lawyer take the lead
If you have a legal question, and you’ve explained everything as clearly as you can, a lawyer will almost always ask you more questions anyway. Sometimes, the lawyer’s questions may not seem relevant. Still, let the lawyer take the lead and answer the questions as directly as you can. If the lawyer’s asking you a question, it’s because he or she needs to know the answer in order to give you the best legal advice possible.
To save time, don’t talk about issues that the lawyer has already told you aren’t relevant. Lawyers are usually really good at getting all the relevant information from a client when talking about a case. However, if you think that something’s relevant, but you haven’t been asked about it, you can always raise it with the lawyer after he or she has finished asking you questions.
#3: Before contacting your lawyer, think about whether email, phone, in-person, or web conferencing is best
You can always let the lawyer know how you’d like to communicate, whether it’s by email, phone, an in-person meeting, or web conference. So why not take advantage of this to get the most value for your time?
Getting a written answer to your questions from a lawyer can be best, especially if your issue is complicated. That said, getting a written response from a lawyer generally costs more than getting advice over the phone. Writing takes more time for the lawyer than talking does.
A phone call’s also less expensive if you think you’ll have lots of follow-up questions for your lawyer because a quick phone call is usually faster than going back-and-forth many times over email. That said, emailing your lawyer with a question before asking him or her to call you is usually the best way of talking with your lawyer on the phone. If you do this, your lawyer can review any documents beforehand so he or she doesn’t have to follow-up with you.
Web conferences can be great ways of talking with a lawyer, especially if you need to talk about documents together. Programs like Zoom can allow you and your lawyer to do this without the travel time for either party. Labour Rights Law has embraced this sort of video conferencing technology for years because of the convenience it provides to clients and how often it helps their bottom line!DISCLAIMER: The content of this article, and this website generally, is not intended as legal advice and cannot be relied upon as legal advice. To provide legal advice on your problem, a lawyer must first understand your specific situation.
We offer free half-hour consultations in person at our Coquitlam office or virtually via software. To book a consultation, please give us a call toll-free 1 (877) 708-8350 or locally (604) 475-0041. You can also book your free consultation online here.