Working with your lawyer or paralegal

Region: Ontario Answer # 860

If you understand the role of your lawyer or paralegal, and assist your legal representative wherever possible, you can speed up the legal process and possibly reduce your legal fees. There are several things that you should do to prepare for your first meeting and to maintain a good working relationship with your lawyer or paralegal.

How to prepare for the first meeting

To prepare for the first meeting with your lawyer or paralegal, you should gather as many facts, documents, and items related to your situation as you can. This includes documents, agreements, letters, transcripts, contracts, and photographs. Bring these papers with you to the first meeting.

You should know what you want and also think about what you are going to say. Prepare to explain your situation clearly and simply, starting from the beginning. You may want to write down your questions and an account of your story on paper. This will help you put the events into the proper sequence, and it will help you make sure that you do not forget any important details. This can help your lawyer or paralegal understand your situation and what needs to be done, which in turn will save time and make it easier for your lawyer or paralegal to begin working on your case.

What happens at your first meeting

The first time you meet with your lawyer or paralegal, you will need to explain what has happened or what it is that you want to do. There are several questions you should ask at your first meeting. These include how the law applies to your situation and what options you have, if any.

You should also be prepared to talk about legal fees at the first meeting. Your legal representative will need some money to begin working for you right away. This is called a retainer, and it is money that a client pays the lawyer to cover the lawyer’s fees and expenses. This is particularly the case in lawsuits. You will also be asked to sign a document which is also called a retainer; this authorizes the lawyer to initiate or defend legal proceedings on your behalf.

You should ask the lawyer or paralegal questions about the cost of his or her services, and find out how and when you will be billed. Some lawyers bill their clients every month, and some lawyers bill their clients at the end of the case or transaction. Paralegals may do the same.

You can also ask how long it will take to resolve the problem or achieve the desired result, and what you should do next. It is also advisable to ask about the lawyer’s or paralegal’s expertise and experience in handling your type of situation or problem.

After the lawyer or paralegal has had a chance to look at your situation, you should ask what potential difficulties there are, and what can be done to speed up the process or reduce the legal costs.

Many clients pay for more of their legal professional’s time than they should because they phone them too often. Before you phone your lawyer or paralegal, you should ask yourself whether it would be better to send an email. If you must call your lawyer, you should see if you can discuss your concern with their secretary or legal assistant. Often this individual knows a lot about your case and can answer your question.

If you have a legal aid certificate that provides for the services of a lawyer, you should make sure that the lawyer will accept legal aid prior to making an appointment. If the lawyer does accept legal aid, then make sure that you bring the legal aid certificate with you to your first meeting.

Ongoing rights and responsibilities

Lawyers, paralegals and clients all have several ongoing rights and responsibilities. Lawyers and paralegals have a duty to keep client communications confidential and to give an honest and candid legal opinion. Clients have an obligation to be honest and provide all relevant information. Your lawyer or paralegal needs to know everything to protect your interests and give you the best possible advice.

After you have chosen a lawyer or paralegal you should be kept informed of how the case is progressing, and expect to receive a copy of all relevant documents and correspondence relating to your case. You should make sure that you read and understand the documents that are sent to you. If you do not understand something, you should ask your lawyer or paralegal to explain it. The reality is that in the litigation process there can be considerable delay and periods where the lawyer (or in certain cases, paralegal) has no information or updates for the client.

You can help establish a good working relationship with your lawyer or paralegal by being prepared for your first meeting and by understanding your lawyer’s or paralegal’s role.




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