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Legal - Helping your lawyer help you in 2018

image West W. Winter, Attorney, The Winter Law Firm, PLLC, San Antonio, TX

AUSTIN - As we begin a new year, I want to get you thinking about making the most out of your attorney relationship. Consider these thoughts throughout the year as you work with your attorneys.






    Like all relationships which thrive, good communication is essential. It is therefore essential to establish open lines of communication with your lawyer.  Your attorney is an extremely important resource for you and your business, and you should not hesitate to contact your lawyer as the need arises.  Additionally, the attorney-client privilege generally applies to confidential communications with your attorneys, so there is comfort in knowing that, subject to some exceptions, what you and your attorney discuss will remain confidential. 
    Time is almost always “of the essence” in the construction industry, and delaying your communication with your attorney can have severe consequences in the form of missed contract deadlines, missed lien/bond claim deadlines, lost opportunities, or otherwise.  The sooner you communicate with your attorneys, who are often busy on many matters, the better position your attorneys will be in to help.
    Lawyers provide professional services and should provide timely and sufficient responses in an acceptable manner.  If you are dissatisfied with your attorney’s responsiveness, talk to your lawyer and let him or her know.  If there is any confusion or uncertainty, ask lots of questions.  Legal issues are often complex, and if you are not fully informed, you may not make the correct decisions for your business.  Given the opportunity, your attorney will help you understand the complex issues at hand and help you make the best decisions under the circumstances.
    It is also important to further communicate expectations which you may have relevant to any particular matter for which you are represented.  In contract negotiations, it is helpful to discuss any unusual circumstances and your risk tolerance so your lawyer has the specific knowledge necessary to best assist your company.  In litigation, where fees and costs can increase quickly, it is important that goals, costs, and any change in circumstances be fully discussed throughout the representation. 

Retain All Documents and Other Evidence

    If your business is in litigation, you will be required to provide documentation and other tangible things to your opponent in the discovery phase of the dispute.  If you have deleted or lost relevant evidence, it could be harmful to your ability to prove your case and defend against your opponent’s claims.  Equally concerning is the potential that you could be sanctioned as a result or even face a spoliation instruction whereby the missing evidence could be presumed harmful to your case. 
    Since time is money and knowing that some amount of discovery occurs in almost every dispute, it will assist your attorney, and be more cost effective, to gather and organize all relevant documents and evidence early on and provide all such evidence to your attorneys for review.  The sooner your attorney knows what the documents hold, including emails and text messages, the better your attorney can represent you and best address any concerns.


    It is essential in any litigation or other situation where claims have been asserted for you to let your lawyer know about all applicable insurance policies.  Failing to let your attorney know about insurance could be costly.  If you have a right to a defense, then your carrier may be picking up the tab for the defense of covered claims.  Significantly, by not timely reporting a claim or demand to your insurance carrier, you could be prejudicing your carrier’s rights and therefore waive coverage.
    By following these principles, your business should experience improved representation, and hopefully 2018 will be, as Humphrey Bogart once said, “the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”  The Winter Law Firm wishes you and your businesses a happy, healthy, and prosperous new year!
    West W. Winter, a LEED Green Associate, serves on the board of the Construction Law Section of the San Antonio Bar Association and has been listed as one of the Best Lawyers in San Antonio for Construction Litigation.  The Winter Law Firm represents general contractors, subcontractors, and suppliers, in all phases of the construction process, from contract formation through dispute resolution, litigation, and collection.  West can be reached via email:  west@thewinterlawfirm.com.

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Carol Wiatrek meditor@constructionnews.net