Speaking with your attorney, who is a near-stranger stranger to you, about the most intimate details of your personal life can be difficult, embarrassing, and downright undesirable. At the same time, it’s a great source of frustration for clients when their attorney doesn’t seem to want to listen to what they have to say. By mentally categorizing the information you provide to your attorney, you can minimize communication conflicts. Asking yourself three simple questions before disclosing information to your attorney can help you organize your thoughts and communicate much more effectively with him or her.
1. Is this information I want to tell my attorney?
This sort of information needs to be carefully filtered by a client before sending a frantic e-mail or scheduling a meeting. The follow-up question to this should always be, “What do I hope to gain from telling this information to my attorney?” or “How will this help my case?” It’s easy to tell your attorney all of the horrible things the other party has done in his or her past. It’s a relief to be able to vent all of negative your feelings to the other side. But will the communication provide you any sort of legal assistance? If not, it’s a good idea to think twice before sharing this sort of information with your attorney.
2. Is this information to explain something to my attorney?
In general, whenever the other side accuses you of something or something unfavorable comes to the surface about you, there is a natural need to explain away the apparent discrepancy. Although it’s easy to simply state that the other party is “lying” or “crazy,” that provides little to no assistance to your attorney. You need to be able to not only clearly articulate your position, but also to offer a logical reason as to why the particular issue arose. It’s also very important to be brutally honest, especially if any portion of the accusation is true or was true at some point in time. The last thing you want is for your attorney to be blindsided in the middle of a hearing.
3. Is this information I need to tell my attorney?
Your attorney needs to know a lot of information about your life in order to represent you, and he or she has probably asked you for a lot of personal documents that may seem unimportant or invasive to you. It is a great source of frustration for attorneys to ask for things such as pay stubs or financial records and receive only a partial response or none at all. Often times, clients get so wrapped up in the information they want to share with their attorney that they don’t hear about the information the attorney needs. You would be surprised how many clients lose their job, move, or have some major life changing event that they fail to share with their attorney. Any information regarding a change in your living situation, job, or children’s lives must be promptly disclosed to your attorney. Only then can your attorney help you obtain the best possible outcome in your case.