Just like lawyers in any practice area, there are five main functions that the boundary dispute attorney must perform. These are: (1) gather facts; (2) research the law; (3) assess the case vis-à-vis the facts and the law; (4) properly communicate that assessment to the client; and (5) develop and pursue an appropriate strategy.
First, with respect to gathering facts, all boundary dispute lawyers must get out of their offices in order to get the “lay of the land.” The reason for this, while not obvious, is because land and the man-made and natural fixtures upon it, are three-dimensional. Pictures and surveys, which are helpful and often necessary, are only two-dimensional. And words, the primary tool used to present the case should it go to court, are one-dimensional.
Because of this, there are numerous facts that will not be relayed in a telephone conversation or even pictures and surveys. So, if your attorney hasn’t promptly come out to view your property after securing your agreement and retainer, then get that office mole out to your place.
If he or she refuses, get someone else who will. Neither of you are doing a bit of good avoiding that trip. The time wasted in trying to explain things will mount considerably beyond the time spent on site. Bottom line, do not skimp here.
Second is research. Good research is a predicate to winning arguments regardless of whether they are ultimately had in front of a judge in trial or much earlier. However, it is pretty difficult for non-lawyers to track this. Almost certainly you will start by looking at the invoice. This is because most work to sort out issues between warring neighbors is done on an hourly basis.
However, I would also suggest that you ask that your attorney provide you with a memo that indicates the three or four most analogous (i.e. similar) cases. I would add that you should ask for a copy of those cases too. Read them! It won’t be easy sledding, but it will give you a much better appreciation for the quality of work that is going into your case. If they don’t make sense, have your lawyer explain them to you.
This leads to points three and four: assessment and communication. Your lawyer must be able to properly assess your case. Has this been done? If you performed your part of step two, it is likely that it has been.
But, how well do you think your boundary dispute attorney has communicated their assessment to you? If you don’t understand, will a jury? Worse, if your attorney casts you aside because you obviously can’t be bothered to understand the intricacies of your own case, will a judge not perceive that arrogance too?
Finally, make sure that the strategy that you decide upon is well thought through. Not only should it seek to achieve your reasonable goals. It should be designed to do so in a fashion that takes into consideration your budget and appetite for risk.
Boundary dispute law is one of the most contentious area of law. Don’t just allow your attorney to punch out a quick letter; have it printed on firm letterhead; and mail it to your neighbor without thinking that course through very carefully. Unless the statutory period is about to run, this cavalier attitude may be a recipe for disaster.