Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Problems with Your Lawyer?

We all have problems in the attorney-client relationship. Sometimes they are minor and sometimes they are not. Dick Price of the Divorce and Family Law in Tarrant County, Texas blog published If You Don't Agree with Your Attorney and I think it worth passing along to potential clients. Here are some key points:

1. Have a discussion. Sometimes the attorney-client relationship is generally fine, but a small problem or disagreement comes up. If it's important to you, talk to your attorney about it. It could be a simple misunderstanding which can be easily fixed. On the other hand, it could be a sign of a major problem and you shouldn't put off dealing with it. Don't let your concern fester and build up. Please address it early on so it can be resolved in some fashion.

2. Get a second opinion. Consult another professional. Most attorneys will not talk with you while you are represented by another attorney, but there may be some things you can discuss with a CPA, a counselor or some other professional. You can research some issues, but there are a lot of limitations and pitfalls involved if you do your own research on the Internet, so I hesitate to suggest it.

3. Change attorneys. There are plenty of attorneys around. If you are unhappy with the job your attorney is doing, it is probably better for both you and your attorney for you to change attorneys. You may have a quality attorney, but there just may not be a good chemistry. Just because the attorney worked well with a friend of yours doesn't mean that the attorney will work well with you. Different personalities may not blend into an effective working relationship. Sometimes communication styles aren't as comfortable for one person as they may be for another. Just change attorneys so that you are satisfied. By the way, an attorney may want to terminate a representation relationship for the same reasons.
I have had cases with clients that I liked go sideways. I not quite sure why even though my secretary thinks the problem is that the clients took advantage of a situation. The two did share a common characteristic: they disliked reminders that they were behind on paying their fees and got very heated when they were so reminded.

Along similar lines Associated Content published Tips for the Lawyer's Client: When to Fire Your Attorney under the byline of From the Desk of an Experienced Attorney:
Failure to communicate. If your attorney fails to properly communicate with you, it is time to fire your attorney. If he or she does not timely return telephone calls or keep you apprised of important developments in your case, you need to find yourself a new lawyer or law firm. Failure to return calls, in fact, is the basis for most grievances against attorneys with their state bar associations. A lawyer's failure to communicate with his or her client is simply unacceptable, and it is a perfectly good reason for discharge.

Overbilling. When many clients receive their monthly accounting from their attorneys, their jaw drops. Most clients do not realize that they are being charged for every single telephone call, every facsimile, every time your lawyer sneezes while thinking about your case. Lawyers also have a terrible tendency to round up. If you feel you are being overbilled by your attorney, do not sit back and take it. Overbilling is a nasty practice in the legal world, and it should not be countenanced. Fire your attorney, then file for a fee arbitration to recover some of what you were overbilled.

Stalling. If you feel that your case should be moving forward but it isn't, it may be time to fire your attorney. This happens a lot, particularly in personal injury cases, where a lawyer need not file suit for years, until the statute of limitations is about to expire. If you feel your case isn't moving forward properly, ask questions of your attorney. Get a tentative timetable. If you are not satisfied with your lawyer's answers, fire him and retain a new attorney.

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