The unthinkable has happened: You need to go to court. After shopping around a bit, you've settled on someone, and schedule an initial meeting to retain an attorney. Here are a few things you can do to help your attorney quickly and efficiently process your case, from start to finish.
1. Document EVERYTHING.
The court system runs on evidence. You need to make sure you have as much documentation of the dispute as possible. Fighting with a landlord? Communicate in text and email only. Spouse/other parent isn't showing up for visitation or is denying visitation? File your violation forms with the Friend of the Court. Whatever the dispute, make a paper trail.
2. Be Prepared.
When you first speak with an attorney, either by phone or by office consultation, you may not know exactly what information the attorney needs to begin representation. That's perfectly normal. Your attorney will ask a lot of questions, and tell you exactly what is needed from you. If you already have a custody or support order, bring a copy of that order. At the very least, get the case number so that your attorney can access the court file on your behalf. If you have any other documentation of your case, bring that, too. It's better to bring too much than too little.
3. Don't Leave Anything Out.
Often times, there are things we don't like to share with strangers. Maybe certain details of a situation that don't paint us in the best light. The first instinct is to leave those details out, so that others will not judge. While that is understandable and natural, it is the best way to hurt your case. Your attorney needs to know every detail of your case, whether it makes you look good or not. They are here to help you, not to judge you. Nobody is perfect, and your attorney understands that. But that small detail that you've left out may have a huge impact on your case. It's better for your attorney to know everything from the beginning, so that they have a plan to address it if the other side brings it up.
4. Listen to Advice.
Your attorney is here to help you. If your attorney gives you advice on how you may proceed with the case, it's based on their experience with the law and the court system. While it is ultimately your choice whether or not you act on that advice, keep in mind that every action--or non-action--has a consequence. If you're not sure if the advice will help you, or why your attorney is suggesting it, ask. Attorneys are always willing to explain their reasoning, and it may help you better understand the court system and your case.
5. Dress to Impress.
This last one is more for the court than for the attorney, but applicable, nonetheless. Court is a very formal affair. You