This is the original question of which was later broken up into two parts. See the other question here.

Typically, I find that when speaking with an attorney, the attorney's #1 priority is protecting you which could set an intimidating tone with the other party and change how relationship proceeds from there. So speaking with an attorney or bringing them into the picture is always a big step as the attorney also has to do their best to keep you in mind which without oversight and good judgement on your part could lead to uncomfortable interactions with the other party.

Sometimes its not only about protecting you, its also about finding a win-win while still maintaining your rights, educating you how the law applies to your case, what actions you as an informed individual can take and how to negotiate the different enumerable interactions with the other party.

So let's say someone is interested in hiring an attorney but hasn't understood exactly how to interact with attorneys yet.

  • How do you explain your case to the attorney? What facts do you bring up? What documents do you provide, etc.?
  • How do you set the tone with your attorney? How to get the attorney to understand so that you are represented satisfactorily?

(Note that in case of criminal cases, clearly win-win is a strange concept so I'm not considering criminal case types in my question, but specifically dealing with other party's in which the end goal is to find a win-win while still being represented to your satisfaction.)

  • This is really two separate questions. How to find an attorney (in a specific area of law, for a particular budget, skilled at different aspects such as negotiation or courtroom) is completely different to how to communicate your case and goals.
    – Stuart F
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 14:26
  • Would it be better if I separated into two questions. I was thinking that too when I was asking it but they are related as finding satisfactory representation starts with the search and ignoring those that are not relevant to your case (huge indicator!).
    – LeanMan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 15:45
  • 1
    @LeanMan you can edit it into two separate questions, and include a linmk from one to the other. That might be better. Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 18:40

3 Answers 3


So for your first two questions, you want to look for attorneys that specialize in your area of Law. For example, if you're facing a murder trial, best not to look at lawyers specializing in contract law. Yeah, they could represent you... but they'd be out of their depth as they don't do this normally. Similarly one wouldn't want to have a criminal defense attorney help them through a suit against the cops for a violation of civil rights.

Even in specializations, Lawyers might further specialize. There are Criminal Defense Attorneys who specialize in traffic court cases and would be out of place in a murder trial. There are prosecutors who are good at prosecuting white collar crimes with huge money and paper trails. Others focus on drug crimes, or what have you.

Often if attorneys aren't right for you, they will refer you to an attorney who would be better.

As for questions regarding what to tell them, really, you should absolutely honest with an attorney. Attorney-client privilege exists to for this reason, as the attorney can only best advise you in your legal disputes. If you did the thing you're accused of, let the attorney know in detail. It could be a case of the cops are right for the wrong reasons and if they don't have the right reasons, that evidence could be attacked (suppose you're accused of murdering someone by stabbing them. Which is not entirely true. You did try to murder them... but you poisoned them. If the cops aren't bringing up poison, negotiating that difference would get you off since it introduces doubt to stab being COD.).

And yes, Win-Win is completely viable in U.S. criminal law, depending on your definition of win. If you could be charged with a capital offense, coming to a plea agreement of life without parole is a win-win because you don't get executed, while the state gets to say the punished a bad guy (not to mention, saves money on the expensive process that is going to trial). In a similar vein, they may have you dead to rights on "Drug possession" but are wobbly on "Possession with intent to sell." They might offer the lesser offense (Drug possession) in exchange for not having to prove what you intended to do with the amount you had, which might cause them to lose as it's harder to prove.

  • Thank you for your answer! Regarding looking for lawyer specialization, that is the exact issue I'm having starting off. I'm looking for someone who can advise me on communicating with HOAs and I don't know what the specialization is for that type of attorney. I see "Real Estate" or "Estate Planning" in "services provided" when looking for someone but much of that sounds to me more like homes under contracts or wills, etc. I'm looking for someone who can hear me out and advise me on the pitfalls of different actions I take. Maybe some who already have experience dealing with HOAs.
    – LeanMan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 15:57
  • I would call some of the offices and ask. Again, if they aren't good at this, they might know who is.
    – hszmv
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 16:07
  • 1
    Estate planning deals with wills and trusts -- nothing to do with real estate.
    – Ron Trunk
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 17:24
  • Do I go by Real Estate or is there something more specific than that for HOA? Real Estate really feels more right when you are trying to do deal with contract negotiations. I want someone who really gets HOAs and understands how to navigate them without making things worse. It'll go smoother that way.
    – LeanMan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 17:51

The first two questions and the last two don't have much to do with each other, so I'll only answer the last two

How do you set the tone with your attorney? How to get the attorney to understand so that you are represented satisfactorily?

Be clear about your objectives, even before fully laying out the facts. The client controls the goals, the attorney comes up with the means. If you aren't clear about your objectives, an attorney will usually assume that you want a maximal risk adjusted result viewing the subject matter as a single isolated transaction.

But, the attorney may very well tell you are some of your objectives, while perfectly fine to have, aren't easily or efficiently achieved in the legal process.

For example, the legal process is very bad a validating your righteousness, and at securing apologies or admissions of wrongdoing from another. In general, the legal process is good at securing partial economic redress and bad at achieving emotional satisfaction.

How do you explain your case to the attorney? What facts do you bring up? What documents do you provide, etc.?

Always tell more, including lots of background that you wouldn't think is legally relevant, and provide more documents, than you think matters. And, don't hold back unfavorable facts. Lawyers are in the unconditional love business. We don't care what you've done but we need to know about it in advance so that we don't get blindsided.

Contrary to popular opinion, good facts win more cases than lawyers who are clever with the law. Non-lawyers often fail to disclose facts up front that turn out to be critical to the case because they don't recognize the legal (or practical) issues that they are relevant to. Good lawyers know how to interview clients to get most of these facts out, but even the best can miss things.

For example, I once had a property ownership dispute arising in Colorado which is a common law marriage state, where a junior lawyer who recently moved to the state interviewed the client and didn't know to ask the right questions. As a result, we didn't learn until much later in the case, that the parties were actually in a common law marriage to which entirely different legal rules applied. And, the client didn't know about common law marriage and so didn't think that some of the key facts were relevant and so didn't offer them up.

I don't know how many cases I've had that have been completely turned upside down by a key fact imparted by a client in a parting comment that the client thought was irrelevant, made after the "official" meeting with the client was over and we were just exchanging social niceties on their way out the door.


Start before you have a dispute

Note: This answer is in response to an OP who knows they will need a lawyer at some point in their life. Many people, perhaps the majority of people, can go through their entire lives without ever needing one. The answer is not directed at them.

There are five professionals who you should have an ongoing relationship with rather than a transactional relationship:

  • your doctor,
  • your dentist,
  • your accountant,
  • your financial planner, and
  • your lawyer.

If you are looking for one of those when things have already started to go wrong, you’re looking too late. You need regular legal check ups just like you need regular dental check ups.

Lawyers are more than litigators: they write your will, they vet your contracts, they overlook major investments in real estate etc. a good lawyer will help you avoid disputes, not just resolve them.

A lawyer who understands you, your family, your business, and your value system is far more effective than one who is coming in cold. Just as important, this lawyer is your gateway to specialists just like your doctor is - they are part of a network.

You may think that this is expensive. How much do you pay for your house and car insurance? Think of their fees as an insurance premium.

Educate yourself

I don’t mean get a law degree. I mean learn the basics of the law and legal system that are most relevant to you.

If you run a business, know the basics of business and contract law.

If you employ people, know the basics of employment law.

If you work in construction, know the basics of construction law.

If you are a career criminal, know the basics of criminal law.

This will help you avoid trouble in the first place and, if you make sure you know the limits of your knowledge, will let you know when you need help. It will also allow you to ask the right questions: lawyers usually know the answers but they don’t answer the ones you don’t ask.

Hire a dispute resolution professional rather than a lawyer to resolve disputes

Lawyers are good at solving legal problems. DRPs are good at resolving disputes. Many DRPs are lawyers but many are engineers, ex-police, builders, mechanics, psychologists etc. They bring a different skill set. Just like to a hammer, everything looks like a nail, to a lawyer, everything looks like a cause of action (over the top generalisation for rhetorical purposes). Maybe your problem can be fixed by a $500 technical solution rather than a $50,000 legal one?

  • 1
    I never heard of a dispute resolution professional (DRP). That's a new one for me. Btw, if you build a relationship with a lawyer, how do you make that work? With a doctor you have PCP or a doctor you see regularly but with a lawyer, what would be the reason to see them regularly unless you are regularly needing legal advice. How costly is that? Their usual $200/hr charge?
    – LeanMan
    Commented Dec 17, 2021 at 23:59
  • Your first one is a really important one that often gets overlooked. I'm glad you mentioned it. I don't know how many times I've had someone come into the office and been "I could have done a lot for you if only you'd talked to me sooner."
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 1:03
  • A DRP is normally an "alternative dispute resolution" (ADR) professional in the part of the United States where I practice. Typically, their fees would be in the same ballpark as the hourly fees for lawyers in the same area. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending upon expertise, experience, etc.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 18, 2021 at 1:25

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