An educated, well-informed consumer is our best client (re-phrased from a Syms Menswear slogan). The following bullet-list of precautions and advice is designed to help all those who HAVE an attorney and all those who do NOT have an attorney because they are still deciding on which attorney to hire. This is a very IMPORTANT list of things to remember, things . . . which enable YOU to help your attorney maximize the effectiveness of his or her representation of YOU.
Always Remember This: DO NOT interpret anything written at this or any other legal website as constituting LEGAL ADVICE for how to handle YOUR case . . . Because each case has a myriad array of unique facts and circumstances which COULD make the website answers and legal statements inapplicable in YOUR situation. LEGAL ADVICE about YOUR case should only come from YOUR attorney . . . AFTER that attorney has reviewed the specific facts and circumstances of YOUR case. You may want to bookmark this web page for easy return.
Make absolutely certain that you have NOT missed any critical legal deadlines for your case, while you are shopping for an attorney.
If you are unclear, uncertain or confused about whether any important legal deadlines may have passed or are about to pass, seek the advice of an attorney IMMEDIATELY.
Make absolutely certain that you allow enough time for an attorney to do what needs to be done on your case . . . BEFORE any impending deadline arrives. In other words, do NOT wait until the last minute to decide which attorney will handle your case.
Let your attorney know what communication technology you have available to you (e. g., Fax machine, Email, Cell Phone, Beepers, etc).
Provide your attorney with ALL possible contact information (e. g., Fax Number, Email Address, Cell Phone & Beeper Numbers, Physical Mailing Address, Work Phone, etc).
Be sure to keep ALL attorney contact information with you at all times, not just the attorney office phone number (Attorney Cell #, Email Address, Pager, Office #, etc).
Make several photocopies of every single document you have regarding you legal matter, and any documents or other items that are in any way related to your legal matter. Remember to copy both sides where necessary.
Email and\or Mail photocopies of all these relevant documents to your attorney ASAP (As Soon As Possible). Mail "COPIES ONLY!" Never send the attorney the only copy (typically the original) you have of a document. Always make several copies and send the attorney "copies" only. The attorney may eventually need the originals, but just send the attorney photocopies until s\he specifies otherwise.
IMPORTANT: Be sure to notify your attorney IMMEDIATELY about anything you receive by mail or by phone or by other means, regarding your case. Immediately Mail or Email complete copies to your attorney, front & back, where appropriate. Also notify your attorney by phone IMMEDIATELY upon receiving any 'important ' documents, papers or information relevant to your case.
Start a file folder where you keep all related documents and always bring that folder with you whenever you plan to meet with your attorney and whenever you go to court.
Do not throw anything out that has any potential whatsoever of being or becoming relevant to your case. If you have any doubts about its relevance, consult your attorney before throwing it out.
Once it becomes apparent to you that you have a "legal problem" --- from that point forward, do NOT talk to anyone but your attorney about your case, because those other people do not have an attorney-client relationship and therefore they can be forced to divulge that information in court. Sharing case information with others seriously impairs your "attorney-client privilege" protections. Do NOT speak to police or to the DA or to opposing parties or to other authority until your attorney is notified and is present. Just tell them you need to consult your attorney and you want your attorney present.
In my legal work I go by my middle name "Bruce" which is why you see "G. Bruce Ketcham" (Gary Bruce Ketcham).
Until the opposing parties and opposing legal counsel know who your attorney is, they will send things to YOU, not to an attorney. In DWI and other driving-related matters, for example, DMV (Dept. of Motor Vehicles) may be contacting YOU, not your attorney --- even AFTER the court record shows the name of your attorney. Be sure to Email or Mail to your attorney photocopies of anything DMV or anyone else sends you, where it is relevant to your case.
Keep in touch with your attorney and do NOT forget to notify your attorney immediately if you receive anything regarding your legal matter. This includes notifying your attorney if you plan to be away or expect to be be 'inaccessible' for a period of time. This allows the attorney to map out an alternative contingency plan in the event of a legal EMERGENCY.
Keep in mind, your attorney must be able to reach you immediately, at any time, on a moments notice, or with no notice at all, because time-sensitive matters may unexpectedly arise in an instant which need to be immediately addressed and resolved. So ALWAYS keep yourself accessible to your attorney 7\24 until your case is disposed of.
It is a good idea to write a kind of diary of critical, relevant 'facts' and vital pieces of information regarding your case, so you will have a readily available list of issues at your finger-tips. This is especially true if there is some chance your memory may become more vague over time (this is nearly always the case). Also, having such a check-list assures you that you will NOT forget to raise certain important issues with your attorney when you meet with him\her.
REMEMBER: A person has the protection of the "Attorney--Client Privilege" and is entitled to complete 'confidentiality' as to all matters related to your case, which you discuss with a lawyer. Also remember that you have this privilege even if you ultimately do NOT hire that particular attorney whom you disclosed this information to. For example, some law offices, like our office, offer clients FREE "Initial Consultation." If the client ultimately hires another attorney, the attorney who provided the FREE "Initial Consultation" still has a duty to safeguard the CLIENT'S confidentiality as to all divulged matters related to his\her case.
It is important to be prudent in your selection of an attorney to handle your case. That typically means having time to reflect and review all of your options. However, never forget that in legal matters, more often than not, "Time is of the Essence" and 'time' is nearly always a critical element to be mindful of. A missed legal deadline can rob you of your efforts to obtain a fair legal resolution of your case. Always be alert to and cognizant of all legal deadlines in your case, until the attorney comes on-board to assume that responsibility.
Best of Luck.