During my short term at Wells, Jaworski & Liebman, LLP, I have learned that a good lawyer needs to be keenly attuned to our client’s needs. We often spend hours with clients to determine their various goals and discuss the development of their cases.
With respect to litigation, during the course of the development of a case, it is often necessary to speak with a client about a new development or the necessity of discovery production. Thus, frequent client contact and meetings become imperative. New Jersey Rule of Professional Conduct (RPC) 1.4(b) requires that a lawyer keep a client “reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.” In the Litigation Department, this means contacting a client regarding court dates and sudden developments of a case.
In addition, section 1.4(c) states, “A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation”, and RPC 1.2 states, “A lawyer shall abide by a client’s decision concerning the scope and objectives of representation . . . and . . . shall consult with the client about the means to pursue them. A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.”
When reading both sections 1.4 and 1.2 of the RPC, one may make an analogy to “informed consent” as it pertains to doctors and surgeons. Here, at WJ&L, we strive to inform clients of the benefits and pitfalls of a specific course of action and of possible outcomes according to strategies. It is as if the case is the patient, we are the surgeons and the informed consent is given by a client. Through communication – phone calls, e-mails and meetings – we are confident that a client’s consent is voluntary, informed and intelligent.
At WJ&L, we pride ourselves on teamwork, and that includes client participation. We also like it when clients are well informed because they provide useful dialogue and feedback. In litigation, they see what one may call “layman’s nuisances”, which allow us to see cases in multi-dimensional ways. Clients seem to appreciate that at WJ&L, we do not work in an isolated void but rather share ideas. Communication is key!
Sylvia Hall is an Associate at WJ&L and actively practices in our Litigation Department.