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6. The Lawyer-Client Relationship

VI. THE LAWYER-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP

A. Introduction

Whenever a relationship is established, its participants form expectations of each other. The lawyer-client relationship is no different. And as in any other relationship, lawyers and clients have rules and boundaries which govern those expectations. Some expectations are appropriate; others are not. Here is an overview of what you can and cannot expect of your lawyer.

B. What You Can Expect from Your Lawyer

Having the assistance of a skilled lawyer during your divorce gives you the security of having someone on your side who knows what to do. Furthermore, you will have someone you can talk to in confidence about your situation and how best to deal with it.

Lawyers provide a variety of specific services for clients going through a divorce. These services include:

  • Consulting with you
  • Educating you about the law and facts
  • Devising and carrying out case strategy
  • Investigating the law and the facts
  • Preparing and reviewing documents
  • Negotiating a settlement
  • Preparing and filing all necessary court papers
  • Preparing you to testify
  • Preparing other witnesses to testify
  • Hiring experts and appraisers
  • Conducting discovery
  • Responding to discovery initiated by your spouse
  • Preparing for court appearances including trial
  • Conducting trials and hearings
  • Advising you about what to expect.
  • Advising you on conduct and alternatives
  • Taking the heat for tough decisions

C. What You Cannot Expect from Your Lawyer

1. Your lawyer will not handle matters that are beyond the scope of your agreement.

The lawyer you have hired to represent you in your divorce will not usually represent you in other matters unrelated to your divorce, unless the two of you specifically agree otherwise. For example, if you need legal assistance in selling your home, preparing your will, or defending against a civil lawsuit, it will be necessary to make specific arrangements with your lawyer, or to hire another lawyer, possibly in the same firm, with the appropriate specialization or expertise.

2. Your lawyer cannot guarantee results.

The eventual outcome of your divorce depends on the facts, the law, how the judge views your case, and other factors. Every case is different. Although your lawyer may express an opinion on possible or probable outcomes, nobody can be sure of the result until it happens.

3. Your lawyer cannot do anything unethical or illegal.

Lawyers work under very strict legal and ethical codes and take them very seriously. If you ask your lawyer to do anything unethical or illegal, your lawyer will refuse. If you insist, your lawyer will withdraw from your case. Examples of forbidden conduct are: encouraging or permitting perjury, hiding assets or income, and in any manner deceiving the court or the other side.

4. Your lawyer may be reluctant to act against the best interests of your children.

A lawyer's first duty is to look out for the client's best interest. Yet divorce lawyers are also concerned about the welfare of the children and some ethical guidelines encourage lawyers to keep the children's interest in mind.

D. Lawyers and Clients Should Maintain an Appropriate Professional Relationship.

Sometimes friendships and even romances develop between lawyers and clients. Many lawyers have close personal friendships with former clients. But because of the intense emotional nature of a divorce, it is usually best for lawyers and clients to defer establishing a social relationship until after the case is over. Romantic relationships are not advisable as they interfere with a lawyer's objectivity and affect a client's expectations. A divorce lawyer and a client should never have a sexual relationship during the case.

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