By William L. Baskette, Esq.
Sometimes, people hire lawyers who take a fee from them, open a file, do nothing on the case until trial and then go to trial totally unprepared for his client’s case. In these kinds of cases, the worst thing the client has going for him is “ineffective assistance of counsel”. By the time the client realizes this is happening to him, it’s usually too late.
How does a person make sure this does not happen to him? The answer is that it starts at the very beginning of the case. It starts with a client telling the lawyer that the client wants an active part in the trial preparation process. The client wants to be involved and be briefed on every aspect of what is going on. Look at what the lawyer is doing, or not doing, and try to understand what is, or what is not, going on. Ask questions until you are satisfied that you understand what is happening in your case, why it is happening and what is going to happen next. Do not be afraid of bothering the lawyer. If the lawyer does not want active participation in the preparation of your case, then do not hire him.
Who your lawyer is when you control the hiring process is strictly up to you. You pay the fees-you choose the lawyer. If you and he have disagreements up front, they will only get worse over the course of trial preparation.
Some clients are so well prepared that they actually helped the lawyer at trial and kept him from making serious mistakes. No one knows your case better than you, the client. Your help to your attorney is invaluable and good insurance as well. Even if you do not read and write very well, you can and should take an active part in your case preparation and trial. Get a lawyer you can work with and talk to in an understanding manner. If you must find or drive witnesses to your lawyer’s office, don’t hesitate to do so. Remember, it is your welfare that is at stake. Do not be afraid to do a little homework on your case, but be sure you keep your lawyer informed what you are doing. You might scare off potential witnesses by approaching them the wrong way. You are not a private detective, but there are always things the client can do to assist his attorney in defending him.
By taking an active role in the preparation of your case, you assure that your attorney is going to have the best information available, and represent you better than if you stay home and hope for the best.