An online media primer on client-lawyer interaction states at the very outset that any person who retains legal counsel might be pondering afterwards “what to expect with regards to lawyer communication, competence, ethics, and fees.”
Do you really think so? Seriously, isn’t that a flat-out given?
A focus on post-retention lawyer quality seems quite logical, given that attorneys are seldom hired to attend to trivial matters. Your matter is likely very important to you, and you have entrusted it to a legal professional. The stakes might be high, and you and perhaps loved ones could be materially harmed if your advocate isn’t up to the task.
Competence is the byword there. Although the above-cited overview notes that “there is never a guarantee that your attorney will perform flawless work,” any client paying an attorney and relying upon his or her guidance certainly has a reasonable expectation that all legal work will done in a duly competent manner.
That means not leaving phone calls and emails unanswered for days on end. It means due focus on ensuring that all court documents are timely filed. It means rendered counsel that steers clear of obvious error. It means keeping the client in the loop.
And that’s just for starters. Attorney underperformance or departure from professional standards regarding competence, ethics and communication can run a broad gamut of considerations. Maybe your attorney is engaging in improprieties concerning fees you have paid in good faith (please see our May 8 blog entry on the commingling of client funds). Perhaps your lawyer has some clear conflict of interest in the case.
And, to point out an extreme example, perhaps your attorney isn’t even preparing for your case. That level of disengagement has been sadly noted with some outlier practitioners.
There are remedies in a case where an attorney acts in a manner that would not be duplicated by any reasonably competent lawyer. One possibility is the filing of a lawsuit that seeks compensation for the harmful effects suffered from substandard representation.
Any lay person seeking relevant information on this important subject matter can obtain prompt answers and guidance from a proven legal malpractice attorney.