Once you have engaged a family lawyer, the next step is to figure out how to communicate effectively with them so you can use the engagement to your best advantage.

Here are 5 suggestions for communicating effectively with your family lawyer:

1. Write down your list of questions and issues

Just as your lawyer should take clear notes during your meetings and phone conversations, it is also good practice for you to keep a list of questions and issues that you would like to discuss with your lawyer. This can avoid repeating the same conversations, thereby saving time (and costs). It is also a sensible precaution as otherwise you may find yourself forgetting some of the things your lawyer has told you. Regular check-in calls or emails can be useful. These should be short and putting them in the calendar can help keep you and your lawyer on track.

2. Discuss matters openly with your lawyer

The first few meetings and phone calls are crucial for your lawyer to gather information about your case. Give your lawyer the facts upfront and remember that you are full of key information – if you leave out important details this could end up costing you more time and money in the long run. You deserve to know what is going on with your case and what strategies are being adopted. If there are issues that you have questions about, or if you feel that something is not being properly handled, do not hesitate to ask your lawyer for an explanation. If your lawyer has not responded to your questions, do not hesitate to send him/her a chaser email.

3. Cooperate with your lawyer

Besides verbal and written instructions to your lawyer, documentary evidence in support of your instructions are equally important for your lawyer to advance your case. It would almost certainly benefit your case if you can produce relevant documentary evidence to your lawyer in a timely manner. However, if you have difficulty producing the documents, your lawyer should be able to have an open discussion with you about the implications of not being able to produce the requested documents.

4. A good lawyer should not be a “post box” or a “decision maker”

A good lawyer should be able to form judgments of his/her own rather than only doing what you tell him/her to do. Therefore, after you have built rapport with your lawyer, it is important to listen to his/her advice before giving your instructions.On the flip side, you should refrain from asking your lawyer to make a decision for you, as s/he should not dictate what you do. The purpose of obtaining legal advice is for you to be able to make an informed decision. Remember that you can accept or reject advice as you wish. Before you reject advice though, make sure you understand why you have been given this advice.

5. Understand the billing process

You may be pleased with how your lawyer handles your case until you receive an invoice from him/her. It is therefore important to have your lawyer explain in detail, preferably during the first consultation, how s/he will charge his fees so that you are not caught by surprise. Most law firms issue invoices on a regular basis e.g. every month, but you can ask your lawyer to issue an interim statement showing how costs are building up and the costs, for example, to be incurred before a particular milestone date or hearing.