Family law conflicts are very personal in nature. At the same time, few non-lawyers have substantial litigation experience in family court. It is frequently a stressful experience for a litigant to defend or prosecute positions in court. Because every household is unique, the issues in family court vary widely. Financial structures, child custody arrangements and decision making concerning a child’s health, education and welfare are all concerns in divorce. For that reason, it is important that your attorney has the skills to provide proper advice, sound representation, as well as the ability to clearly communicate with you to allow you to participate fully in resolving your dispute.
Communication Is More Than Customer Service
Some lawyers may view communication as necessary only to appease their clients. The Rules of Professional Conduct mandate that lawyers abide by the decisions of clients in matters that pertain to the objectives of the client. Rule 1.2 further requires attorneys to consult with their clients about how to pursue their goals. An attorney, therefore, must listen to a client to learn the goals of a legal action. Moreover, Rule 1.4 directly addresses a lawyers’ duty to communicate. The rule includes several areas that require communication, including:
- Circumstances or decisions that require the client’s informed consent
- The means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished
- The status of the client’s matter
- Responding promptly to client requests for information
- Discuss any limitations the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law impose on the attorney’s conduct
As a practical matter, communication is vital to obtain an understanding as to how the law applies to a set of circumstances, the potential options that may be available, and the risks that may be associated with a course of action. If your attorney does not adequately discuss the various aspects of the law that pertain to your case, your ability to make knowledgeable choices and provide informed consent to a course of conduct are impaired.
Communication Should Be A Two-Way Street
Defining goals and objectives is not always simple. In many situations, legal options may be available that you may not have considered or you may require assistance in grappling with a difficult choice. Lawyers who listen, encourage questions, advise, and engage in a dialogue are better equipped to fully understand what is most important to their clients. Notably, most attorney-client communications are privileged to allow open and honest dialogues. Communication is a strong tool to provide you with the tools to knowledgeably participate in making informed decisions. When choosing a lawyer, or seeking a second opinion, the attorney’s communication skills make a difference.