Not being on top of your case and asking the right questions can cost you money and cause you significant aggravation. I would like to show you how to avoid that kind of pain.
Someone came into my office this week seeking advice and help to collect from a debtor that owed a balance for quite a long time. It turns out that she had retained a lawyer to file a claim against this debtor over two years ago.
She was waiting for certain steps to be taken on her behalf and assumed, without checking, that things were going along as they should. This turned out not be the case. The steps were not taken, the necessary forms were not filed and the date for a court appearance was not obtained.
The unfortunate part of this story is that this individual waited for over a year before attempting to contact her lawyer. When a phone call was finally made there was no reply. Nor was there a response to emails sent.
Needless to say, remedial action will have to be taken, after first looking into what has and has not been done so far. This will take time and money, while further diminishing this plaintiff’s prospects of recovery of the funds by the loss of time.
All of this could have been prevented by better and more frequent communication.
When you hire a lawyer or paralegal, they are there to serve your best interests. One of the ways they do that is by keeping you informed. Because of how busy legal practitioners are this will sometimes not happen in a timely manner, but most lawyers and paralegals, involved in a collection, small claims court or other matter will ensure they keep you informed of what is happening with your file.
Often something that needs to be done within the court process does indeed take a lot longer than we all would like it to. In that situation, there is nothing to do but wait. frustrating as that may be.
But…unless you have specifically been told that action has been taken already and that “now we wait” you should not allow much time to go by before contacting your lawyer or paralegal.
Something being missed, forgotten or misplaced can always happen. As the client, you have the greatest stake in the matter and your role is to make sure that:
1. You have given your representative all the information you have so best represent you without holding back any relevant information.
2. That you know and understand what is happening and what is being done on your behalf.
Some steps you can take to protect yourself and help your representative.
First of all, don’t be shy and make sure you communicate regularly with your representative.
You are paying for your lawyer/paralegal’s time so be sure to prepare before you call.
Prepare a list of the questions you want to ask.
The matter you are dealing with probably has a significant emotional component, which will make you want to vent and express your frustration at length. Don’t. Remember this is costing you money and going over familiar territory will not help. Save your rant and venting for someone who is not charging you by the hour.
Keep a pad and pen handy so you can jot down what you are being told.
Keep your questions succinct and to the point.
It is OK, to ask when you can expect to hear further about this, Note that on your calendar.
Follow up if you do not hear back.
If something new develops let your representative know as soon as possible.
Generally, I find most of us get over-excited when dealing with legal matters that involve us. I therefore strongly urge my clients to do all the above in a short email. This helps keep them focused and limits the information to what is really important. It has the added benefit of giving everyone a record of what was said.
Last but not least, do not forget to review your email carefully before you hit “send”.