If you’re thinking about hiring an attorney to help you with your family law matter, you’ll want to know what to expect from the professional relationship that will inevitably form. We sat down with Attorney, Natalie Thorp, to talk through what she believes makes an attorney-client relationship successful, and how both parties can work together towards a positive outcome.
1) When does the attorney-client relationship form?
“By the rules, an attorney client relationship can form as soon as a person relies on the attorney. So if the attorney is giving legal advice, and that person has a reasonable basis to rely on that advice, that’s the basis of an attorney client relationship. That relationship can be formed either implicitly or explicitly, and it is the foundation of any case.”
2) Is information that is shared between a client and their attorney confidential?
“Once that professional relationship is formed, anything that the client tells the attorney--unless it's illegal, which falls outside of the rules-- for the most part is confidential. That means that the attorney cannot disclose that information to anybody outside of the firm. There's no one else that can know or that the attorney can tell the details of your case to, or even that you are a client of theirs. [In regard to illegal information], if you go to your attorney and you admit that you committed a crime, the attorney not only doesn't have to keep that secret, but in a lot of instances may be required to report what you've told them.”
3) What level and promptness of communications should a client expect from their attorney?
“One of the biggest duties of an attorney is the communication between themselves and the client. An attorney has a duty to have a workload that is reasonable enough that they can respond to their clients in a prompt manner. If a client writes you an email, and you don't get a response for more than a week, that's not prompt. If a client has a pressing need, and they need to get a hold of you, they need to be able to depend on the fact that you're going to be responsive to that need. That's what they pay you for! So I think it's important for clients to understand when they're hiring attorneys, that [prompt communication] is not a privilege; that is something they should be able to expect from their attorneys.”
4) How important is honesty and trust in an attorney-client relationship?
“It is truly vital that the attorney and the client have an open and honest line of communication. It's bad to put your attorney into a situation, especially if you go to court, where things come out in the courtroom that the attorney doesn't expect. And the truth is, attorneys are just people, and they need to know what your expectations of them are as much as you need to know what their expectations of you are. That conversation has to start from the beginning of the relationship. Trust is so important. And I know it’s hard to bare your soul to a stranger. It really is, and that's what an attorney is, especially at the very beginning of your case—we're strangers. But I can't protect you from something that I don't know about. If there are bad things, I need to get in front of those things. I need to know where your vulnerabilities lie, so that I am able to figure out a way to mitigate them. So it's very important that people share even the stuff that's embarrassing, and that they may not want to share. To get my feet under me on any matter, I need to know the background, I need to know the history, I need to know what got them here, I need to know all of it. Every piece."
5) Should a client expect an attorney to have full control over a case outcome?
“Well, if the other party decides they want the case to cost a lot more, or they want to be difficult, then they're going to have the absolute ability to do that, because I can't control them. I just have to respond to whatever comes. [A client] will often have this idea in their head of how their case should go, but a case never goes the way a client wants it to go 100% of the time, it just doesn't.
That’s one of the things I think that clients need to know at the outset. This goes into managing expectations. [It’s important for the] client to know that we can't control the other person, and that we can work the case as close to their ideal as possible, but understanding that we're working with a whole other set of people, right? And their ideas of how they want the case to roll out is going to be very different [than yours].
So managing expectations is, I would say, 80% of this job. This is especially true when you end up in court, because now you not only have the other client and their attorney, but now you're bringing a judge in with their own histories and their own set of expectations of how they want it to roll out. Figuring out what the outcome of that is going to be is never something we can do. So you have to be upfront at the very beginning and set those expectations appropriately. It's very important for the client to just remember that the only people that we can count on is ourselves. We can't change other people.”
If you’re interested in hiring an attorney from our firm and you have questions about what to expect from the attorney-client relationship, we are here to talk you through the process, and what you can expect when you hire our firm to represent your needs. Call us today at (503) 227-0200 to set up a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys, and to start the process of creating your better tomorrow.
Get to Know Attorney, Natalie Thorp
Natalie Thorp’s path to family law was not a traditional one, but one that was inspired by personal loss and hardship. Rather than pursue law school because of early aspirations, Natalie was drawn to family law after experiencing a contentious and drawn-out divorce process herself. It was through this experience, in which she lacked adequate representation from her own attorney, that she learned from first-hand experience the value of strong representation, and having an attorney who is educated, compassionate, and capable. Inspired to ensure that other’s don’t have the same difficult divorce process as herself, Natalie purposed to become a family law attorney, where she could then fight for clients the way no one fought for her. According to Natalie, “divorce sucks, divorce attorneys should not!” Call us today to set up a consultation with Natalie!