LEGAL MATTERS: Is Your Lawyer AWOL?
Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Of our clients who have been previously represented by another attorney, by far the number one complaint regarding their former lawyer is he or she failed to return phone calls or otherwise failed to communicate.
Regular lawyer-client communication is key
Regular communication between a lawyer and client is an extremely important part of the attorney-client relationship. There is no justification for an attorney failing to keep a client informed about significant developments and, in fact, it is required under the professional rules of conduct.
Before you retain a law firm, ask for the firm’s policy, practice and routine with respect to client contact. Make sure you understand how and when the firm will contact you and make sure your expectations are in line with how the firm conducts business.
In an ideal world, a client would be routinely informed of all matters. Experience has shown, however, that there any number of very bright and otherwise competent attorneys who frustrate their clients by not maintaining contact with the frequency or manner the client desires. In such cases, the client, before seeking an alternative attorney, may want to consider taking a more direct approach.
Steps you can take
First, request your attorney routinely send a copy of all correspondence and documents received. You can also periodically telephone your attorney's office and ask for an update. Try to be as precise as possible in your question -- it is better to ask "have your received a copy of my medical records?" then to generally inquire "is there anything new on my case?"
Ask your attorney to meet with you to review the contents of your file. In most instances a quick review of a file will make clear the extent of the work that has been conducted on the matter. Even better, if you are scheduled to come in to prepare for testimony or other matters, ask to come in a little early so you can review the file at that time.
There is no excuse for an attorney failing to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter. A pro-active client can take steps to ensure he or she has peace of mind and is well informed.
The foregoing is offered for informational purposes only and is not legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.
Susan G. Pegden is a litigation associate with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins in Providence. She is admitted to practice in Rhode Island and Massachusetts and is a member of the Board of Governors of the Rhode Island Association of Justice (RIAJ).
Sean P. Feeney is a partner with the Law Firm of Hamel, Waxler, Allen & Collins. He is admitted to practice in Rhode Island, Illinois and Wisconsin. Mr. Feeney is a former special counsel to the City of Providence, military prosecutor with the United States Marine Corps and Special Assistant United States Attorney for the Central District of California.
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