When you work with a lawyer, you’re entitled to representation of the highest quality and in keeping with ethical standards. Lawyers are the experts on legal matters, but certain standards apply with respect to their behavior towards you and also what they expect as behavior toward them. As with doctors, clients come to their attorney with various problems, some minor and some major; problems that they cannot solve on their own which puts them in a vulnerable position, letting the fate of that matter rely in their attorney’s hands. So, what rights do you have when engaging the services of attorneys? The following rights and responsibilities can be found at 22 NYCRR §1210.1.
- You are entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by your lawyer and the other lawyers and nonlawyer personnel in your lawyer’s office.
- You are entitled to an attorney capable of handling your legal matter competently and diligently, in accordance with the highest standards of the profession. If you are not satisfied with how your matter is being handled, you have the right to discharge your attorney and terminate the attorney-client relationship at any time (court approval may be required in some matters and your attorney may have a claim against you for the value of services rendered to you up to the point of discharge).
- You are entitled to your lawyer’s independent professional judgment and undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.
- You are entitled to be charged a reasonable fee and to have your lawyer explain before, or within, a reasonable time after commencement of the representation, how the fees and expenses will be computed and the manner and frequency of billing. You are entitled to request and receive a written itemized bill from your attorney at reasonable intervals. You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement for fees and expenses that you find unsatisfactory. In the event of a fee dispute, you may have the right to seek arbitration; your attorney will provide you with the necessary information regarding arbitration in the event of a fee dispute, or upon your request.
- You are entitled to have your questions and concerns addressed promptly and to receive a prompt reply to your letters, telephone calls, e-mails, faxes and other communications.
- You are entitled to be kept reasonably informed as to the status of your matter and are entitled to have our attorney promptly comply with your reasonable requests for information, including your requests for copies of papers relevant to the matter. You are entitled to sufficient information to allow you to participate meaningfully in the development of your matter and make informed decisions regarding the representation.
- You are entitled to have your legitimate objectives respected by your attorney, in particular, the decision of whether to settle your matter is yours and not your lawyer’s (court approval of a settlement is required in some matters).
- You have the right to privacy in your communications with your lawyer and to have your confidential information preserved to the extent permitted by law.
- You are entitled to have your attorney conduct himself or herself ethically in accordance with the New York Rules of Professional Conduct.
- You may not be refused representation on any basis protected by law.
Clients are also expected to hold themselves accountable to treat their attorney’s office including staff in the following manner:
- The client is expected to treat the lawyer and the lawyer’s staff with courtesy and consideration.
- The client’s relationship with the lawyer must be one of complete candor and the lawyer must be apprised of all facts or circumstances of the matter being handled by the lawyer even if the client believes that those facts may be detrimental to the client’s cause or unflattering to the client.
- The client must honor the fee arrangement as agreed to with the lawyer, in accordance with law.
- All bills for services rendered which are tendered to the client pursuant to the agreed upon fee arrangement should be paid promptly.
- The client may withdraw from the attorney-client relationship, subject to financial commitments under the agreed to fee arrangement, and, in certain circumstances, subject to court approval.
- Although the client should expect that his or her correspondence, telephone calls and other communications will be answered within a reasonable time frame, the client should recognize that the lawyer has other clients equally demanding of the lawyer’s time and attention.
- The client should maintain contact with the lawyer, promptly notify the lawyer of any change in telephone number or address and respond promptly to a request by the lawyer for information and cooperation.
- The client must realize that the lawyer need respect only legitimate objectives of the client and that the lawyer will not advocate or propose positions which are unprofessional or contrary to law or the Lawyer’s Code of Professional Responsibility.
- The lawyer may be unable to accept a case if the lawyer has previous professional commitments which will result in inadequate time being available for the proper representation of a new client.
- A lawyer is under no obligation to accept a client if the lawyer determines that the cause of the client is without merit, a conflict of interest would exist or that a suitable working relationship with the client is not likely.
Disclaimer: This article is intended to be educational and is not intended to be legal advice, which can only be given after an attorney-client relationship is established.