What you can expect from a lawyer
A lawyer's job is to explain the law and your legal options to you, and to act on your behalf.
- Lawyers don't make decisions for you — they review your situation and offer suggestions on what you can do. A lawyer should listen to what you say, and try to do what you decide you want to do. Remember that the lawyer is working for you. However, most lawyers won't follow instructions that are unreasonable. If your lawyer won't do what you want and says that you're being unreasonable, get a second opinion. If the second lawyer also says you're being unreasonable, you need to reconsider what you want. Lawyers are entitled to withdraw from cases if clients are unreasonable.
- Make sure you speak slowly, and present the facts in a straightforward way when telling the lawyer about your case. Try to describe your case as if it happened to someone else. This may help you to avoid becoming emotional or leaving out crucial information. Present the facts in chronological order so your lawyer gets a clear picture of your case. If you write the facts down ahead of time, you might find this easier.
- Sometimes it's hard to understand what a lawyer is saying. Don't hesitate to ask the lawyer to slow down and explain anything that has been said. Take notes while they're talking. If you have an advocate, take them with you to your meeting with the lawyer.
- Your lawyer can help with legal advice only. If you need emotional support, talk to a friend, an advocate, or a counsellor.
What to ask your lawyer
Here are some things that you might want to ask your lawyer:
- What are my choices?
After you've explained your problem, ask the lawyer to talk about your options. If you don't understand something, ask. Take the time to think things over.
- What do I need to support my case?
Ask the lawyer what evidence you need to support your case. For example, you may need to get receipts from a daycare centre or statements from witnesses.
- Can I get help with part of the work?
You can ask the lawyer how much it would cost to get help with a certain part of your case. For example, you might want the lawyer to draft your affidavit, or review the other party's application or reply. (Some lawyers are prepared to offer this kind of help. See BC Family Law Unbundling Roster.)
- What can I get help with?
Ask your lawyer to explain the things you need to be helped with, and what steps are involved. Or ask your lawyer to suggest what you can do to save time or money.
- Can I get help from both an advocate and a lawyer?
If you have an advocate or want help from one, discuss this with your lawyer. Ask your lawyer if they are willing to work together with an advocate.
- How long will it take?
Ask if there might be delays and how you can avoid or reduce them.
- How much will it cost?
Ask the lawyer how much your bill will be and if there will be any additional costs. Tell your lawyer you want to know about costs while your case goes on.
- When do I have to pay?
You're entitled to get a detailed bill before you pay. Some lawyers will agree to wait until your case ends before asking for payment. Remember: how and when you pay can always be negotiated.
If you have a problem with your lawyer
If you have a problem with your bill or your lawyer, try to work things out with the lawyer first.
- You're entitled to have your bill reviewed if you're not happy with it. Contact the Law Society of British Columbia for advice about any problems you have with your lawyer.
- See the Legal Aid BC website for advice about any problems you have with a legal aid lawyer.
- See also the fact sheet Working with Your Legal Aid Lawyer (available online in English).
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