This article can help you decide if your complaints about your lawyer are reasonable.
The majority of complaints that people have about lawyers fall under one of these four categories. Having more than one problem is not uncommon. These are the most common areas of contention.
- Ethics, and
Your attorney has to provide quality service. This article will explain what you can expect of your lawyer in each area.
Discuss work with a lawyer.
Communication with Your Lawyer
Communication problems create problems in all types of relationships–including between an attorney and client. You might think your lawyer is terrible if you don’t understand the details of your case. Your attorney might be doing an excellent job. Your stress level will increase if your lawyer doesn’t communicate the progress of the cases.
Your lawyer should be present when you first retain counsel.
- Describe the options in your legal matter
- discuss strategy
- Provide a timeline of important events
- Answer your questions promptly and return calls promptly
This might take longer if your lawyer is busy. It’s not unusual to hear less from a lawyer who is on trial. However, someone at the office should be capable of explaining when you will hear from your lawyer and assure that you are being handled appropriately.
Learn how to find the best attorney.
Your right to attorney competence
Most people are shocked to learn that no lawyer can guarantee a good job. Lawyers who violate ethical rules or steal are being pursued by bar associations that monitor lawyers. Not lawyers who aren’t good enough.
One reason for this is that the definition of a «good job» is not always what it seems. A client might expect a dismissal in a criminal case. Other private criminal lawyers may consider a reduction of a felony to a misdemeanor.
However, if your lawyer makes mistakes in handling your legal matter and you lose money; as a result, you can sue. A mistake could be something as simple as failing to file a lawsuit in time or doing something that the lawyer shouldn’t have done. For example, representing a company in bankruptcy and representing an investor who is negotiating to purchase the business. Malpractice lawsuits are difficult to win and costly to bring. For more information, visit Suing your Lawyer for Malpractice.
A lawyer should be ethical.
Every state has its own ethical laws, which bind lawyers. These rules often require lawyers to:
- Represent their clients with unwavering loyalty
- Keep their clients’ trust
- Represent their clients within the legal limits.
- They put the interests of their clients before their own.
To enforce these rules, each state has its own lawyer disciplinary agency. The agency has the power to impose monetary penalties, order the lawyer to pay restitution (such as a return of stolen money), suspend the lawyer’s practice license, and even disbar the attorney. It is extremely rare for lawyers to be disbarred. This is typically reserved for those who have been convicted of serious crimes or have a history of stealing from clients.
The Legal Fees
It is important to have a written fee agreement when you hire a lawyer. It is a simple way of avoiding a common cause for contention with clients: legal bills.
Here are some common complaints:
- My bill is too high, and it’s not what I agreed to.
- My bill isn’t itemized. I don’t know what my lawyer claimed to have done in order to get it.
- My attorney did a horrible job, and I don’t want to pay a large bill.
- When a paralegal was doing most of the work, my attorney charged me at the lawyer’s rates.
- My attorney overbilled me by charging 30 minutes per two-minute call. This was even though I had called to protest an earlier overbilling.
California, for example, requires a written retainer agreement. This agreement must disclose the billing system and charges. Even if your state does not require one, it is a good idea to insist on one.
You should clearly state how often you will pay and ask the lawyer to provide you with an itemized statement so that you can understand the charges. You have to agree to pay a contingency payment to your lawyer (the lawyer only collects if you win). Make sure you understand how the fee is calculated, as well as who is responsible for any costs that may arise during the litigation.
For more information, please see Attorney’s Fees: The Basics.
Obligations of lawyers and clients
Your lawyer should:
- Recognize that you are in control
- Let us tell you what to expect
- Describe when you want things to happen
- Tell us what is important in your case
- Estimate the cost of certain items
- Analyze the cost-effectiveness and viability of different strategies
- explain delays or date changes
- Describe the value of your case
- Explain the dangers of going to trial instead of settling.
- Prepare yourself for your deposition
- Prepare yourself for your trial
- Follow through with what you have agreed to do
- Prepare a written summary of the events and a chronology
- Tell your lawyer everything
- Understand that your lawyer is required to keep all information you share confidential
- Inform your lawyer about any new developments
- Respect your lawyer’s schedule and time
- Provide the requested information as soon as possible
- If you are unable to attend, let your lawyer know.
- Help with legwork and research that doesn’t require any legal training
- Pay your bills and
- Do not expect your lawyer to be your friend.