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Your Lawyer: A User's Guide

by Lawrence J. Fox and Susan R. Martyn
This little volume has described your lawyer's obligations to you. Before we close, however, a few notes regarding how to judge whether you have received what you are entitled to from your lawyer. Of course you now know to expect the 4 Cs: good communication, competence, confidentiality, and conflict of interest resolution, and the other obligations we have described. Yet we recognize that in the end, having come to a lawyer to accomplish some goal - to press or defend a claim, buy a home, start a business, get a divorce, whatever - you will not only judge the lawyer's performance by the return of phone calls, but also by the results. In that regard we hasten to remind you of two things.

First, your lawyer should be your one true advocate. If it is the sale of a business, your lawyer should strive to get what matters to you, whether it be top dollar, no future liability, or a clean break. If it is suing for damages from a car accident, your lawyer should try to maximize your recovery, get all your medical costs reimbursed, collect damages for your pain and suffering. If it is a divorce, your lawyer should do his best to get what you want for your future: custody of the children, child support, alimony. Undoubtedly, your lawyer will advocate for all these. You will even have many opportunities to watch your lawyer advocate. He will undoubtedly sound enthusiastic. You will even be convinced by your lawyer's rhetoric. After all, who is more deserving than you?

Second, while your lawyer will also try to achieve the absolute best for you, your lawyer owes you two important obligations. Your lawyer must be candid with you about the strengths and weaknesses of your position. Your lawyer also must recommend a compromise or settlement of your matter if the lawyer believes that is in your best interests. When your lawyer does so, do not confuse that advice with any lack of commitment to your cause on your lawyer's part. Your lawyer is in a dual role, advocating for the best and, at the same time, trying to remain realistic about your prospects. If the lawyer were not realistic, the lawyer would violate the duty to communicate. So if your lawyer offers advice you don't like, please don't shoot the messenger. Or think that your lawyer is abandoning you when all your lawyer is doing is fulfilling his ethical duty to you.


1. Did my lawyer charge me the fee I expected? (Chapter 3)
2. Did my lawyer communicate well with me? (Chapter 4)
3. Did my lawyer handle my case competently? (Chapter 5)
4. Did my lawyer keep my confidences? (Chapter 6)
5. Did my lawyer disclose and resolve conflicts of interest? (Chapter 7)
6. If I expressed disappointment with something in my case, did my lawyer explain it to my satisfaction? (Chapter 8)
7. Did my lawyer refuse to assist me if I suggested something illegal? (Chapter 9)
8. Was the outcome of my case, even if not exactly what I expected, satisfactory?

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