Most lawyers with "dream" and "nightmare" clients try to expand the first group and spin off the second. In all life's arenas, including law, the customer who's proactive, cooperative and solvent is the one whose calls get put through first.
Just as you have an idea of what you'd like in an attorney, your attorney has a similar sketch of the "ideal client."
District of Columbia attorney Linda J. Ravdin prefers to work with clients who take an active role in their case.
"The best clients," says Ravdin, "ask intelligent questions about strategy. They help make decisions, and follow through on collecting documents."
Ravdin contrasts this type of client with the "shopping bag people," who bring in reams of unsorted information for the attorney to pore through and sort.
"This type of client,"
notes Ravdin, "wants you to do everything for them, even
things they could do themselves." The client looking for
a surrogate parent is frequently more difficult to deal with,
according to Ravdin.
So for "AAA" client-status, keep a few rules in mind:
Recognize that your lawyer has other clients.
Respect his/her time and realize that he/she is probably half nuts from multitasking. Don't call unless necessary.
Read over your "engagement letter" (which you should get from your attorney once you decide to retain him/her) carefully - what your lawyer will do for you is there somewhere.
The lawyer is not a magician and can't make judges sign orders
against their will. You have the right to expect professional,
courteous service, not miracles.
Be responsible and helpful, doing as much legwork as you can yourself. Your case will progress more quickly, with fewer legal hours billed.
Gather information before its absence spawns a crisis. (our
lawyer's staff may be able to help with this but you will
pay for it.) If you get asset/liability or other worksheets,
fill them out accurately and return them.
Educate yourself. Maybe you never wanted to be Perry Mason or John Grisham, but get to know as much as possible about your situation.
Go to the library, visit web sites, call consumer information agencies. Besides feeling more connected to your own life, you'll save time and money.
Spend a day in court. Find your local courthouse and sit
through a few hours of arraignments, trials and hearings.
This may be a wake-up call -- but you need to know how slowly
and erratically justice is (sometimes) done.
Pay the bill (obvious, but sometimes forgotten.) If you need
to make financial arrangements or have a cash-flow crisis,
let your attorney know.
Freud never asked, "What do clients want in an attorney?" but maybe he should have. For most, a blend of Superman, Wonder Woman, Mother Teresa, Gordon Gekko, Job, and Albert Einstein will work, assuming they're available at 3 AM and reasonable, too.