Thursday, March 1, 2007

What Lawyers Cannot Do and about Communications

Several different persons called with inquiries that were actually complaints about their attorney inspired this post. If there were real problems with the attorney, they were not what the people were complaining about. The real problem came down to communication. The attorney did not explain the process properly or did not communicate fully about the progress of the case or did not communicate promptly.

I think all of us - certainly myself - are guilty of poor communications at some time or the other. I have calls here that I am behind on. All I can plead is some sort of clod/allergy that has knocked me for a loop this week but more importantly I just do not want to be sneezing and coughing on the telephone. Not really a good reason for not making calls.

What I find harder and harder to deal with as I get older is making sense of what is going on for the clients. I think I put matters into plain English but I still find times when what I say makes no sense or does not explain the client's question. In some ways, this blog is an attempt to work out this problem.

To get back to the main topic here - what lawyers cannot do:

  1. Lawyers do not have control of the court's calendar. Most of our divorce courts also have a criminal jurisdiction and criminal cases take precedence over family law cases. Judges get sick. Opposing attorneys have other cases and if they are criminal cases then they have to attend to the criminal case first.
  2. Lawyers cannot make a judge do just anything. Our job is to persuade but judges have the final say in everything. If they are wrong, then all we can do is appeal to the Indiana Court of Appeals and get those judges to say that our judge was wrong.
  3. Lawyers do not order anything. That is a judge's job. About the judge's power is #2.
  4. Lawyers cannot stop the other side from being stupid. The law really can do very little to prevent things. What law does is punish for things done.
  5. Lawyers cannot change the facts. The facts determine the outcome. We can argue how the law applies to a set of facts, we emphasize one perspective on the facts, but we cannot wave our hands and make all the facts favor us. We must deal with the facts that disfavor us as much as those that favor us. Do not be surprised if a lawyer turns down a case because the facts stink.
  6. Lawyers are not the place to file things. Just because you went to a lawyer does not mean that something is filed. Papers are filed with the court. Lawyers prepare documents for filing with a court.
  7. Lawyers cannot guarantee anything. Not only is this unethical but the lawyer who does it is stupid. Betting on racehorses has fewer variables than any litigation.

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