ii) A lawyer should be good at drafting your case or defence as the case may be. Not all lawyers have good drafting skills, even though they may be quiet good at chatting up clients.
iii) Your lawyer must have a reading habit. It helps a lot if your lawyer keeps abreast of the law by brushing up on the latest rulings of the High Courts and Supreme Court.
iv) Unless your case is very simple in nature you should avoid lawyers who are hesitant or cannot argue effectively in court either because of extreme old age, debility or because they are rank freshers.
v) The most important criteria for choosing a lawyer is that he should have an impeccable reputation for honesty and integrity. Avoid lawyers who are always telling you that the entire system is rotten and that the only hope of getting justice is to fix the system.
WHAT SHOULD BE A REASONABLE FEE AND HOW TO PAY IT
What should be a reasonable fee for any lawyer. This is a vexed question, to which no absolute answer can be given, as the amount of variation in fees between different places, in this vast country of ours can be phenomenal. A client ought to remember that a lawyer sells his time, and if a lawyer due to his competence commands a high fee it is not without reason. In our opinion if you can afford it, never choose a lawyer because his or her fee is lower than that of other more competent lawyers.
Still you can have an idea of what the range of fees for lawyers in a particular place is by asking around in the courts, as well as from people who are employed in the courts or from those who are already litigating at that place. Competence should be the sole criteria. Most lawyers will accept their fee in instalments from a client. The clerk of a lawyer generally gets 10% of the lawyers fee which has to be paid apart from the fee settled. A lawyer also has to be paid reasonable expenses such as typing, attestation, process fees, etc, and generally it is the clerks who will talk to a client about it. In most cases in the lower courts the amount of initial expense for filing or defending a case should be in the hundreds of rupees and not beyond a thousand or two in exceptional cases. During the course of a case especially in civil matters, witnesses may have to be summoned by making a payment of charges in court, or publication may have to be done in some newspaper to summon the other party. These expenses too have to be borne by the party and a lawyer cannot be expected to incur any expense in a case out of his fee. Whenever any amount is claimed in a case, such as recovery suits or suits for damages, etc, court fee has to be affixed on the plaint at the time of filing of the suit. The amount of court fee fixed differs from state to state, and is in proportion to the amount being claimed.
Many clients unfortunately often have a problem with lawyers who keep asking for some expense or the other on every date of hearing. They will make it a point and insist that a client come on every date of hearing, even if the matter is of a civil nature. You can put your foot down and ask why you are being called on every date, even though your presence is not required in court. You can also ask your lawyer to explain why expenses are being claimed on every date and ask him to account for them.
WHAT SHOULD A CLIENT LOOK FOR AND EXPECT FROM HIS LAWYER & CONVERSELY WHAT A LAWYER DESIRES FROM HIS CLIENT.
Once a client has chosen a lawyer he has to repose complete confidence in him. To conceal any matter from a lawyer can have disastrous consequences for a case at a later stage. Do not just tell the good points about your case but tell your lawyer about the negative aspects of the case as well. A lot can be done at the initial stage of a case if your lawyer is good, but once a case has proceeded, it is very difficult to backtrack and do a “U” turn to rectify a flawed stand.
A client can expect that his lawyer devotes a fair amount of time to drafting his case or reply as the case may be.
In law there can be multiple approaches to solve a problem. When a client relates his problem, a lawyer has to sit down and think through what should be the best course of action to achieve the result his client wants. To do this he has to examine the following:,
a) The kind of evidence his client says he can produce to prove his case.
b) Whether the desired result is achievable under the existing position of law
c) How to counter, the likely defence that the other party may put up.
d) In criminal matters the lawyer defending a case has to examine the case and see what is the most probable defence that he can put up which would be enough to rebut the case of the prosecution. The entire evidence in the case then has to be led so as rebut the prosecution’s case and to prove the defence set up . Choosing a strategy in criminal cases is most important. Even not putting up a defence can be a strategy , but the lawyer must be very clear about it after consulting his client. Conducting a case by a lawyer requires serious preparation and acting impulsively at the spur of the moment can have serious consequences.
The foundations of any case are always laid down by your lawyer in the lower courts, whether it be as a party filing a case or defending it. Once a party chooses a stance for itself, it can not change it. What to say, and what not to say is most crucial and has to be decided by the lawyer in the lower court. A lawyer has to ensure that the stance taken by his client is sustainable under law and also to see whether the evidence available substantially supports the case that he has set out. In case either of the two things are not done, there would be little chance of success.
Even in appeal to the higher courts you cannot change, what you have said in the lowest court and what you have omitted and not chosen to say cannot be said subsequently. Many times as lawyers we come across cases where a wrong stance has been taken and where the case is doomed to failure because the position is either unsustainable in law or because no proper evidence was led to prove the contentions made in the case. No matter how many appeals are filed in such cases they are doomed to failure, just like a building without a foundation cannot stand.
Let us illustrate the point with a hypothetical example. In the sample question we have given in the website, the lady has a suspicion about her husband having an adulterous relationship with a colleague of his. However she has only heard rumours about it. Due to her feeling that her husband’s behaviour has changed, she has convinced herself that her husband is having an extra maritial relationship.
It should be apparent to any lawyer that while the client is insisting upon the fact that her husband is guilty of adultery there is insufficient evidence to prove such a contention in court. No matter how strongly a party feels, it must be remembered that courts go by evidence alone. To prove adultery the lawyer may have to see whether there is clear convincing evidence of such a relationship, which can be produced before the court. Such direct proof is not always available in most cases.
If after examining all the aspects a lawyer has discarded the ground of adultery, he can then question the client to see if there is enough evidence to prove the ground of cruelty to obtain a divorce for his client. In case he finds that even for proving cruelty there is insufficient evidence, ( or that from what his client has told him “cruelty” as defined by law is not made out), then the lawyer must have the gumption to tell his client that no case of divorce is made out.
Once you have engaged a lawyer, you can expect that he will give you time on at lest two to three occasions to discuss your case. It is essential that the case is discussed with your lawyer at the time of filing the case/filing of reply to a case as well as at the time of leading evidence. Do not land unannounced at your lawyer’s office without an appointment, to discuss matters. Your lawyer needs time to read your case and refresh his memory.
Lawyers are not too fond of pesky clients who quiz them and start discussing their case on every date of hearing. A good lawyer’s time is strictly rationed and he has to apportion it between many cases to do justice to them. Neither are lawyers too enamoured of clients who try and show off their knowledge of the law and it is often the case that a lawyer would consider such clients a waste of time and give them short shrift.
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