Book Review: The Florida Bar Journal, Volume 80, No.8. October 2006
Your Lawyer: A User’s Guide
By Lawrence J. Fox and
Susan R. Martin
Reviewed by Carrie May Poniewaz
Lawyers who must consistently explain the basics of legal representation should consider making Your Lawyer: A User’s Guide a standard lagniappe for inquisitive clients.
Styled as a conversation between a skeptical new client and the authors, this skinny primer’s question-and-answer format saves valuable client-meeting time by tackling several common concerns in succinct language. Busy lawyers will appreciate its direct handling of mordant queries like, “So under a contingent fee, I get my lawyer for free?” and of the cynical quips that often follow: “There’s always a catch.” Clients, on the other hand, will enjoy the way this book addresses some aspects of legal representation with a dose of suspicion that is perhaps not as easy to administer to a lawyer in person. After all, one might have to work up a little angst before actually asking, “Loyalty sounds good but what’s the reality? I just know you’ve got more exceptions.”
To both parties’ advantage, though, Your Lawyer: A User’s Guide does not completely let lawyers off the hook from the basic questions clients should ask in person. Short outlines in each chapter instruct readers to request the type of information that will help them understand what to expect from their lawyers (“how long will this take you to complete?”), and that will help lawyers determine which concerns they should address to keep the lines of communication clear and open (“What are my alternatives in this situation?”).
The short, simple chunks of information make this book easy to use, and one-frame cartoons sprinkled throughout the pages add playful humor. Those who can’t shake off standard worries will likely chuckle, for example, at the client on the witness stand who looks shocked when his lawyer tells the judge, “If it pleases the Court, Your Honor, I’d like to quit the defense and join the prosecution.”
The chapter that aims to soothe clients’ nerves about lawyers’ duty of loyalty follows sections dealing with solicitation and referrals, fee arrangements, communications, competence, diligence, and confidentiality. The authors then shift to a tutorial on what to do if something goes wrong, advice on what the client should not expect from a lawyer, and words of caution in dealing with other people’s lawyers.
After closing with a chapter on putting legal results in proper perspective, the authors offer a handy glossary that includes legalese like “Quantum Meruit,” as well as those everyday terms with special legal meanings that clients can embrace: “Reasonable — A fuzzy word that permits lawyers to argue on both sides of a question.”
An individual copy of Your Lawyer is $12.00, and LexisNexis offers up to 50 percent off for bulk orders.