Ask the client for help

 Posted By: je froilan m. clerigo

"We are in this together." That's what we tell our clients regarding their cases. Client's frustration comes from unmet expectations. When it is made clear to them that lawyers, while paid for doing the legal work, does not and cannot be expected to know as much as the client knows his case, and that what the lawyer will only try to do is to help him or her tell her story to the judge, the client understands that they must work together.

This is why, to prepare a case, we usually ask the clients (actually including all witnesses) to write out, in their own words, their version of the events of the case. We also ask them to write the names of all the people who they think will have some contribution to the case, be it good or bad, and to write what he thinks those people know about the case. We also give them reading materials bearing on their cases, like magazine or newspaper articles, or even decided cases that may be applicable to their own case, so that they will be better educated about their cases. Then they can have meaningful discussion about the case with the lawyers.

We usually find this extremely helpful in annulment of marriage cases, where the important facts are those which will lead to a finding of whether or not there is a ground to annul based on psychological incapacity. These facts are usually within the client's peculiar knowledge. We tell them that writing it out, rather than just verbalizing it in our interviews, will stimulate memory more so that he will be able to remember more if he writes it out.

Besides being absolutely helpful, this process also helps maintain excellent working relations with clients. When clients refer their problems to you, they surrender control over the case, and it frustrates them. Giving them something to do about the case gives back some of that control and it eases that frustration.

In the last analysis, it really is not about you: it's about the client.