If you or I answered questions in Court like the presidential candidates do at the recent town hall debate we would be running the risk of being held in Contempt!
In Court parties/witnesses must answer the question asked. It is preferred that the answer be “yes” or “no” and then an explanation offered if necessary. Obviously if it’s not a “yes or no question,” answer the question asked. This can be very difficult to do and takes practice to get this right. One of the things that can aid this is to practice or rehearse the actual questions with your attorney. By way of example, one of the candidates was asked does the Dept of Energy consider its role to work to reduce gas prices. The answer given was not “yes” or “no.” I am actually not sure what the answer was…and I listened to it.
If you find yourself in Court, not answering the question asked may result in the Court to conclude you are being deceptive. This is not an impression you want to create.
Another thing to be sure of is to answer only the question asked. Do not answer what is not asked and do not offer more than what is asked. The best example I can think of is when a party was asked if they had committed an affair with “Mary” since the separation. The answer was, “I have not committed an affair with ‘Mary’…since the separation.” There was an awkward pause. The awkward pause resulted in the follow up question of when did you commit your affair with Mary. The party told on himself by not just saying “No” which would have been a completely truthful answer to the question asked.
Answer Yes or No. Explain if necessary. Sometimes less is more.
One of the most daunting tasks in a legal situation is hiring an attorney. Its is not something you ever look forward to doing, regardless of the reason for why you need an attorney. But, there are several things you should do before contacting an attorney and several things you should do afterwards.
Ask your Family. It is likely someone in your family, or a close friend, has been through the need for an attorney and used one. This will help you determine who to use and just as importantly who NOT to use.
Ask your Preacher. Your preacher, pastor, rabbi, etc… may well know who can help you. Sometimes they are reluctant to get involved as it may pit one parishioner vs. another, however, in my experience they try to steer either one or both to someone equipped to help that particular person.
Ask Trusted Professionals. Your CPA, Banker, Counselor. They know who has a good reputation in the community and in some instances may have worked with the attorney.
Review the Web. Do they have a web presence? Review their site for content? Review for practice ares; Jack of all trades or limiting their practice?
Interview the Attorney:
The Initial Assessment (or consultation, as some attorneys call it) is as much you gathering information on the attorney as the attorney is getting information on, about and from you.
Ask about Experience; trial experience, experience in the area of law you seek, experience with the potential judges and counsel-opposite(s).
Explain. See if they can explain the process in English. I know some big words, but I also know when to use them.
Ask about Fees. Know what a “Retainer” is. (Unearned money which the attorney earns as they work on your case. Typically you are billed for every phone call, email, text, letter, appointment, interview and court appearance).
Trust your gut. Instinct matters. If you don’t click, don’t have that trust – move on. There are a lot of attorneys out there.
Be smart about it too. If the attorney can explain it, has the experience and is in your budget, don’t delay taking action, sometimes you have to make the best decision, on the best information available at the time. (Maybe your gut is wrong….)
Be Honest with them. Every dirty detail.
After the Hire:
Be clear on Expectations.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate. (Phone, text, email, as needed)
Follow their advice. That is why you hired them.
This is not a perfect list, but it is some food for thought when hiring an attorney.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney that gets hired more often than not. If you think you need an attorney you probably do.
It has to be one of the worst feelings in the world. You are working, perhaps at your job, or you jut got home and there is a strange person there with an envelope. You hope against hope that it is not a package from 1) the IRS and/or 2) an attorney. The person may be a plain clothes process server you have never seen before or even a sheriff’s deputy or constable. What do you do? Run? Scream? Invoke the Castle Doctrine? No.
Breath. Take the papers. Be polite to that person, as they may later be a witness. If not nice, at least be indifferent.
What to do When you get Legal Papers?
1) Take the papers.
2) Review the papers.
3) Make a copy.
4) Take them to an attorney.
“Okay. I took the papers. What next?” Call your lawyer. DO NOT IGNORE THE PAPERS! Do not put them in the car to be forgotten. Do not pile them up with your junk mail.
In most instances the moment you received those papers a potentially critical deadline began to run. That deadline can be from 2 days to 7 to 30 or 45 days, but nonetheless a clock is now ticking.
On numerous occasions I have had a potential client call and say that they have Court on Wednesday. I think, “well today is Monday they can’t do that.” My next questions is when did you get the papers? “June. About a month and a half ago” Yikes. Don’t do this.
Think of all the anxiety they have put themselves through with the weight of those legal papers on their mind. If you get papers take them to an attorney. Have them reviewed, know what they mean and how you need to respond to them.
Matthew Thompson is a family law attorney and has been served papers before, so he knows what he’s talking about. Trust the Bow Tie.