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What Does My Attorney Expect from Me?


Click here or on the image above to watch the video that accompanies this article. Together, these pieces answer the question: What does my lawyer expect from me?

Note: The video includes parts 6 and 7 of a 7-part series aimed at helping consumers discern how to select the best lawyer. The video and the article below are presented by Christian Attorney RL Johnson, a civil trial attorney with over a dozen years of experience.


Many people who hire lawyers later decide that they have made a hiring mistake. This may result in a breakdown in the client relationship, which can be costly both in terms of time and money. That is, you'll have to seek, hire, and pay a new lawyer to replace the old as well as endure the painstaking process of redoing the intake process so that the new lawyer can properly pick up were the previously lawyer left off.

Thus, to the extent possible, when hiring a lawyer it is crucial that you avoid a hiring mistake and get the most out of the representation. This article explores the keys to avoiding a hiring mistake and getting the most out of your legal representation.

The keys

  • Honesty

  • Communication

  • Responsiveness

Selecting the right lawyer

It should go without saying that every lawyer must act responsibly and conform his or her conduct to established professional rules. With the exception of California and Puerto Rico, every state and four U.S. territories have adopted the American Bar Association’s (“ABA”) Model Rules of Professional Conduct.[1]

With the Model Rules as an indispensable reference, you should strive foremost to select an attorney who earnestly believe in and cares about you and dilemma. That is to say, while price is and must be a selection criterion, wisdom, empathy, commitment, and competence are far more important to the success of your case.

  • Wisdom[2],

  • Empathy,

  • Commitment, and

  • Competence


What does the Scripture teach us about wisdom? Here are a few words of Truth.

“A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.”

~ Proverbs 29:11 (ESV)

“Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.”

~ Colossians 4:5-6 (ESV)

"The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”

~ Proverbs 1:7 (ESV)

“20 Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future.”

~ Proverbs 19:20 (ESV)

“10 By insolence comes nothing but strife, but with those who take advice is wisdom.”

~ Proverbs 13:10 (ESV)


The term “empathy” is used to describe a wide range of experiences. Emotion researchers generally define empathy as the ability to sense other people's emotions, coupled with the ability to imagine what someone else might be thinking or feeling.[3]

The apostle Peter counseled Christians to have “compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous” (1 Peter 3:8, NKJV). The apostle Paul also encouraged empathy when he exhorted fellow Christians to “rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15).[4]


An attorney who undertakes the representation of another must be willing to a client dedicate his or herself to the client’s cause. Towards this end, the MRPC are instructive.

MRPC Rule 1.3: Diligence

A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client.

This means that

  1. a lawyer pursues a matter on behalf of a client despite opposition, obstruction, or personal inconvenience to the lawyer and “takes whatever lawful and ethical measures are required to vindicate a client's cause or endeavor.” MRPC 1.3, Comment 1. However, neither commitment nor diligence require “the use of offensive tactics or preclude the treating of all persons involved in the legal process with courtesy and respect” Id. Indeed, local court rule respecting civility prohibit such conduct.

  2. a lawyer controls his or her workload “so that each matter can be handled competently [MRPC 1.3, Comment 2].”

  3. a lawyer does not procrastinate. However, a lawyer is not precluded “from agreeing to a reasonable request for a postponement that will not prejudice the lawyer's client [MRPC 1.3, Comment 3].”

  4. a lawyer carries through to conclusion all matters undertaken for a client [MRPC 1.3, Comment 4].”

  5. a sole practitioner prepares a plan “that designates another competent lawyer to review client files, notify each client of the lawyer's death or disability [MRPC 1.3, Comment 5].”

Moreover, and closely connected to above-mentioned notions of diligence and promptness, is the requirement to communicate with the client. According to the MRPC Rule 1.4: Communications, a lawyer must:

  1. promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client's informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(e), is required by these Rules;

  2. reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client's objectives are to be accomplished;

  3. keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;

  4. promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and

  5. consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer's conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.

Additionally, a lawyer is required to “explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.” MRPC 1.4(b).


Rule 1.1 Competence

A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.


Legal Knowledge and Skill

  1. In determining whether a lawyer employs the requisite knowledge and skill in a particular matter, relevant factors include the relative complexity and specialized nature of the matter, the lawyer's general experience, the lawyer's training and experience in the field in question, the preparation and study the lawyer is able to give the matter and whether it is feasible to refer the matter to, or associate or consult with, a lawyer of established competence in the field in question. In many instances, the required proficiency is that of a general practitioner. Expertise in a particular field of law may be required in some circumstances.

  2. A lawyer need not necessarily have special training or prior experience to handle legal problems of a type with which the lawyer is unfamiliar. A newly admitted lawyer can be as competent as a practitioner with long experience. Some important legal skills, such as the analysis of precedent, the evaluation of evidence and legal drafting, are required in all legal problems. Perhaps the most fundamental legal skill consists of determining what kind of legal problems a situation may involve, a skill that necessarily transcends any particular specialized knowledge. A lawyer can provide adequate representation in a wholly novel field through necessary study. Competent representation can also be provided through the association of a lawyer of established competence in the field in question.

  3. In an emergency a lawyer may give advice or assistance in a matter in which the lawyer does not have the skill ordinarily required where referral to or consultation or association with another lawyer would be impractical. Even in an emergency, however, assistance should be limited to that reasonably necessary in the circumstances, for ill-considered action under emergency conditions can jeopardize the client's interest.

  4. A lawyer may accept representation where the requisite level of competence can be achieved by reasonable preparation. This applies as well to a lawyer who is appointed as counsel for an unrepresented person. See also Rule 6.2.

Thoroughness and Preparation

5. Competent handling of a particular matter includes inquiry into and analysis of the

factual and legal elements of the problem, and use of methods and procedures meeting the standards of competent practitioners. It also includes adequate preparation. The required attention and preparation are determined in part by what is at stake; major litigation and complex transactions ordinarily require more extensive treatment than matters of lesser complexity and consequence. An agreement between the lawyer and the client regarding the scope of the representation may limit the matters for which the lawyer is responsible. See Rule 1.2(c).

Retaining or Contracting With Other Lawyers

6. Before a lawyer retains or contracts with other lawyers outside the lawyer’s own firm to provide

or assist in the provision of legal services to a client, the lawyer should ordinarily obtain

informed consent from the client and must reasonably believe that the other lawyers’ services

will contribute to the competent and ethical representation of the client

Find an ethical lawyer

Rule 8.4 Misconduct

It is professional misconduct for a lawyer to:

(a) violate or attempt to violate the Rules of Professional Conduct, knowingly assist or induce another to do so, or do so through the acts of another;

(b) commit a criminal act that reflects adversely on the lawyer's honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects;

(c) engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation;

Your state bar keeps a list of all active and inactive lawyers licensed to practice in your state. These lists also report suspension and disbarments.

* * * *


Like any other buying decision the buyer must always beware. That is to say, there is no foolproof formula that guarantees that that the attorney-client relationship will never suffer stresses and strains. Indeed, some tension between the client and legal counsel is to be expected and may prove healthy in terms of the overall success of the legal endeavor. However, attention to the foregoing keys (Honesty, Communication, and Responsiveness) are crucial ingredients in the success of the attorney-client relationship.


Helpful Links:

• Christian Legal Society

• The Library of Congress’ website:

• Civil Pro Se Forms

• Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

• Public Access to Court Electronic Records (“PACER”) system


Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is offered for educational purposes only and is not intended to substitute for legal advice and is not customized to your particular needs. Before undertaking self-representation, we urge you to consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your state.



[1] The dates of State adoption and the Model Rules can be found online at [2] Reserved for new and better ideas and references [3] [4] extracted from


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