How well you cooperate with your attorney should affect how aggressively your attorney pursues your goals

Posted Friday, December 4th, 2015 by Gregory Forman
Filed under Attorney-Client Relations, Not South Carolina Specific, Of Interest to Family Court Litigants, Of Interest to Family Law Attorneys

If a client retains me at the beginning of the litigation process it will typically take at least six months, and more likely a year or more, until his or her case goes to trial. During the litigation process I learn a lot about my client’s ability to act responsibly, pay attention, follow directions, retain information, and show up prepared and on time. These are attributes that will be critical if the case actually proceeds to trial. A client who cannot do these things will not handle the stress of trial well and will not do well at trial. A family court judge will observe these attributes and will rightly judge the client adversely–especially on issues such as custody and visitation, where the ability to act responsibly and task complete is vital.

Even legal issues that one wouldn’t normally think of being impacted by irresponsibility may be still be so. A judge might fear that awarding an irresponsible supported spouse alimony might merely enable that dysfunction. A judge might limit an attorney fee award over concern that the fees were inflated because that party failed to cooperate with his or her attorney.

Thus a client who has proven him or herself to be unreliable will be a client whose case I will not want to try. Trial is trying (pun intended) and the additional stress of wrangling an uncooperative client is stress no attorney needs. An attorney who is uncertain that the client will show up on-time, prepared and sober for court is reckless to try that case.  Irrespective of the substantive facts of the case, a client who is cooperative and responsible will get better results than a client who isn’t. Knowing I have a client who won’t undermine my efforts at trial enables me to negotiate without fear of risking trial. Knowing I have a client who will undermine my efforts will force me to settle on the best terms I can negotiate.

My experience with irresponsible, uncooperative clients is that they don’t understand this. They perceive their irresponsibility and uncooperativeness as something independent of the substantive facts of their case, and therefore as irrelevant. However, if it affects my ability to try their case it is not irrelevant. Being a responsible, cooperative client is often the easiest, most cost-effective way of obtaining better results through litigation.

One thought on How well you cooperate with your attorney should affect how aggressively your attorney pursues your goals

  1. Jason says:

    But what if all previous attorneys have failed or failed to do what is right, how can you hire another without prejudice. Especially if there is hope, this sparks the normal response of fear, or even anger. Under the most intense circumstances as a child, parents we want to be right our wrongs and thus sometimes you get possibly a client who just wants justice or their story heard. :( In our experience never seems to happen :(

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