How to work well with a lawyer
To make sure you and your lawyer work together in the best possible way, consider the following tips.
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To give you legal advice, a lawyer will need information about you and your situation. If you've arranged to meet with a lawyer, you need to take with you:
- Your telephone number(s) and other contact information, so the lawyer can reach you if they may be late or miss a meeting
- All documents related to your case, such as your separation agreement, any court order that exists, or any new application
- A list of questions, extra paper, and a pen so you can write down answers to your questions
- a summary (typed if possible) of your story, including important dates
- some idea of what you want to have happen
Take all the documents you think may help. In addition to the list above, here's some other information you could gather documents about or write down for your first interview:
- Identification with your full name and address (tell the lawyer if you don't want this information given to anyone else)
- Full names and birth dates of all your children
- Medical problems you or your children have
- Full name and current address, if you know it, of the other party (this could be your spouse, ex-spouse, ex-partner, or child's other parent)
- Date you started living with your partner and/or got married, and when you separated
- All court orders or separation agreements you already have
- Details about where you and the other party work
- Your children's BC Services Card/CareCard numbers
- Your Social Insurance Number card
- Other party's social insurance number
- Your marriage certificate
- Details about your income and everything you know about the other party's income
- If support or property are issues, your tax returns or summaries for the past three years
- Copies of the other party's tax returns for the past three years
- Property tax assessments
- Your three most recent pay stubs
- Copies of the other party's pay stubs, if available
- Your citizenship or immigration documents
- List of everything that you and the other party own together or separately, including property, pension plans, RRSPs, or joint bank accounts (it doesn't matter if things are in the other party's name only)
- List of debts that either or both of you have
- If the police have been involved with your family, the business cards of the police officers you dealt with
- List of incidents in your relationship that explain any need for a protection order, or an order dealing with custody, guardianship, or parenting arrangements, for example, incidents of physical or mental abuse
Make and keep copies of all documents you give to your lawyer. Use a large envelope, file folder, or binder to organize these papers.
Other things to do before a meeting
- Write out questions before every interview, so that you won't forget anything.
- Arrange to take a friend or advocate with you if you can. They can remind you of questions you had, and take notes of what the lawyer says and what you agree to do at the meeting.
Record the following information about all your meetings with your lawyer:
- Decisions made
- Tasks you each agreed to do
- When each of you promised to complete your tasks
- Amount of time you spent with your lawyer
- If you have a legal aid lawyer, ask how much time is available for working on your case and how you can help prepare your case.
- Talk only about your case and the facts important to that case.
- Limit the number of phone calls you make to your lawyer and keep calls to a reasonable length. Keep track of your calls to your lawyer and what you talk about.
- Write out clearly or make copies of any new information for your lawyer and give it to their secretary.
- Write out contact information for witnesses you would like to suggest. Describe briefly what each witness can testify about.
Remember that lawyers are not social workers or counsellors. They are business people who provide legal advice, information, and representation.
- Write all appointments and court appearances in your calendar.
- Be on time for every appointment with your lawyer or court appearance. If you have an emergency, let the lawyer's office or court clerk know immediately that you'll be late.
- Ask questions when you don't understand your lawyer.
- Answer all your lawyer's questions as soon as possible and tell your lawyer clearly what you decide at each stage of your case.
- Do everything you told your lawyer you would do.
Discuss any disagreement you may have with your lawyer. Changing lawyers in the middle of a case can create problems and should be avoided. For example, a new lawyer would need time to become familiar with your case. If it becomes necessary to change lawyers, do so in a respectful manner and at a time that won't hurt your case.
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