Sometimes miring through a lawsuit, whether against a supplier or an ex-business partner, can be more painful than the events that gave rise to the dispute. Although favorable results can never be guaranteed, foreign clients can take comfort in the fact that retaining a Chinese-based firm is less taxing than one might imagine. A client’s physical presence in resolving a dispute is limited, practically in absentia in most cases. The bottom line is that you don’t actually always have to fly to China to sue somebody. But your communication with your attorney is key. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
Always answer your emails within twenty-four hours.
Let’s face it: both you and your attorney have limited time. If you get an email, particularly one asking for additional information, don’t put it off for later—time can be of the essence in some cases. That may seem like a no-brainer, but it is awfully easy to let messages slip through the cracks and remain unanswered. (And don’t be shy in reminding your attorney and his or her staff that the standard goes both ways.)
Disclose as much information as possible.
More is always better. That means every email, invoice, receipt, and note you have. Even if you think it is irrelevant, experienced attorneys are quite skilled when it comes to drawing inferences, which can be more powerful than textual evidence. The best part is, everything can be sent electronically—very rarely will you need to send any hard copies.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Law school is demanding. There is no possible way to learn every aspect of the law in a classroom. If you, the client, are not sure about a particular aspect of your case, do not be shy when it comes to asking questions. In all honesty, lawyers learn an awful lot from their clients’ curiosities. Each case is a learning experience. Lawyers charge clients not just for their achieved wealth of knowledge, but for their ability to obtain new knowledge—researching skills. Of course this may sound like defensive hand wringing, but don’t be dismayed your obscure, off-the-cuff question cannot be immediately answered. The best attorneys will check their facts before giving you a confident answer.
Honesty is the best policy. The surefire way of losing your case is to disclose false information. This includes omissions. It is dishonest to leave out small little details because you think their revelation will harm you. Help your attorney help you. Remember, you are hiring an expert to help you with your problem. The lawyer is bound by a confidentiality covenant; there is nothing to fear. Just like when you were a kid, and your parents found that broken cookie jar in the kitchen, with the crumb trail leading to your hideout—someone will find out.