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Dealing With A Lawyer

Preparing to meet with a lawyer.

One of the most important things to know before you meet with a lawyer is that any communication between you and your lawyer related to getting legal advice is confidential; it cannot be shared with anyone else without your consent. Your lawyer must also hold in strict confidence all information concerning you and your affairs that he or she acquires during the course of your professional relationship. A lawyer also has a duty to be sure not to allow any other interests to impact his or her judgment, advice or action on your behalf.

Who’s who in a lawyer’s office

Some lawyers work on their own while others work with other lawyers. Here are some of the people you may meet in a law office.

Lawyers have a law degree from an approved university and have been approved by the Law Society to practice law in the NWT. For more information on how a lawyer becomes approved to practice law, see our section on the Admissions Process.

Your lawyer may also assign some of the more tasks that he or she is performing for you to other lawyers with lower billing rates, or to staff in the lawyer’s office, to reduce your costs. Those other staff are:

Legal assistants and paralegals are specially trained staff who work under the lawyer’s supervision;

Articling students or students-at-law are law school graduates who are training to be lawyers with a particular lawyer. They often do research and conduct interviews. Students are also allowed to represent you on certain types of court matters.

Meeting with your lawyer

To get the most out of your appointment with a lawyer, it will help to prepare before the meeting.  Come to the meeting ready to provide the all the information the lawyer will need. Bring to the meeting a list of all the questions you have for the lawyer.

Before your meeting

  • If you can, set out the details of your legal matter, setting out the facts in order.
  • Think about all of the questions you want to ask your lawyer. If you can, write them out.
  • If you can, prepare a list of names, addresses and phone numbers of the people involved in your problem.
  • If you have documents about your problem, bring them with you to the lawyer.
  • Your lawyer is required to confirm your identity and so he or she will ask you for identification which has a picture on it, such as your government identity card, driver’s license, treaty card, firearms license, or passport.

If you don’t speak English, let your lawyer know that.  You may also want to bring someone who speaks and understands English with you to your meeting with your lawyer.  

During your meeting

  • Tell your whole story, even if it is damaging or embarrassing (remember, anything you tell your lawyer for the purpose of obtaining legal advice is confidential).
  • Talk to your lawyer about his or her legal opinion, his or her advice to you on what you should do next. Your lawyers may want some time after the meeting before he or she can give you their opinion.
  • Working with your lawyer is a relationship and requires good communication and understanding of the expectations of one another.Talk to your lawyer about timelines.You can ask when they return phone calls, letters and emails and what sort of things could happen that would make your matter take longer.
  • Find out about your options and alternatives. Tell your lawyer what you would like the outcome to be.Make sure you and your lawyer agree on your plans and priorities and on the outcome you are seeking.Your lawyer will likely tell you if your expectations are not realistic and if your outcomes are not achievable.
  • Talk to your lawyer about fees.See the section below on Lawyer’s Fees.Find out how much your lawyers expects this matter will cost you.Sometimes it is not possible to give an assessment of the total cost, but your lawyer should be able to give you a sense of how much it will cost to do certain things. Ask your lawyers what disbursements, or fees, will be charged in addition to the lawyer’s fee.Ask your lawyer when he or she wants you to pay for the accounts that are sent to you.
  • Make notes of any information that you lawyer requires you to provide and any dates that you have with your lawyer. These may be other meetings, or court dates.

After your meeting

  • Collect all of the information that your lawyer requested, and provide those documents to your lawyer.
  • Be sure to meet your lawyer on the other dates your lawyer provided to you.