Lawyers have an ethical, legal, and moral obligation. The ethics of being an attorney are generally controlled by the state board, state ethics board, or commission. The ethical canons are setup very specifically. Lawyers can’t graduate in law school, or at least I couldn’t, without having a class or course in ethics. Each year in Louisiana, we have to go through a continuing legal education (CLE) class. The CLE classes discuss ethics and professionalism. Each lawyer has an ethical obligation in the way they work with clients, which include how they treat you, honesty, advocacy, and responding to the client. There’s a whole list of things. In my 30 years of experience, the vast majority of lawyers that I know and have worked with are really ethical, moral, and legal professionals.
Sometimes, a lawyer may deviate from an ethical standard by accident or not knowing, but that is very rare. A lawyer has a responsibility to represent you in the best of his or her ability based upon the information, facts, law of the matter. If a client tells their lawyer an untruth, the lawyer knows that it is in fact a lie. Accordingly, he or she is not allowed to knowingly put that before the court. A good lawyer should not do that. If a client requires their lawyer to do that, they should withdraw. That’s a requirement. The lawyer owes a degree and obligation of honesty in representing things in court. That doesn’t mean, however, that he or she can’t interpret some of the facts or law. As long as it is not a frivolous or dishonest matter, they can interpret the law. However, they can’t knowingly go into court and lie. A lawyer has an obligation of doing the best they can for their client within those boundaries of law.
Another area that you hear a lot about are frivolous lawsuits. First off, there should be no frivolous lawsuits. A frivolous lawsuit indicates that a layer has no grounds whatsoever of winning. The law clearly states that there’s no basis in the fact or law that a frivolous lawsuit could win. A lawyer should have a sufficient understanding of the law and facts to be able to make that call. In some cases, the law grants leeway. For instance, if a client walks in two days before a prescription of the statute limitations and you’re trying to rush and file the case to protect the client, the law will allow a period for you to declare that you don’t understand the facts. However, if a lawyer finds out that there’s no basis in either the law or facts, then they should withdraw the case, dismiss it, or somehow get out of it.
Lawyers get paid many times. For example, in personal injury cases, lawyers get paid by a contingency fee. Their recovery depends on what they recover. By the very definition of a frivolous lawsuit, they’re not going to recover anything. Thus, it is not profitable to keep incurring fees on a frivolous lawsuit. I have not seen many frivolous lawsuits, but I know they exist. There are laws and means within the system that prohibit lawyers from filing frivolous lawsuits.
How Often Will You Hear From Your Lawyer About Your Case? Do You Receive Regular Updates?
The frequency in which a client hears from their lawyer will depend on the type of case. For instance, in divorce cases, there may not be any developments due to delays. In criminal cases, you may have your trial set ahead. And so, there isn’t much to do until the hearing. If there is reason to update a client, the attorney will call. Lawyers don’t generally pick up the phone to talk about the weather. They’ll have a purpose to call. Many times, people are waiting for the discovery. Discovery takes place when your attorney gets the information from the other side. As such, there might not be anything that your lawyer will need to report. With that being said, there may be other times where there is a lot going. Your lawyer could be calling every other day or once a day as they’re working through the case.
If a client is getting nervous or doesn’t understand something, I always encourage them to pick up the phone and call me. It’s my obligation to take or return the phone call immediately. Depending on the concern, I’ll ask a staff member to call and address their questions. If a client has a question, but they don’t call me, shame on them. If I represent them, they need to pick up the phone. I want to answer their questions.
Sometimes we have clients that don’t necessarily return their phone calls timely. They wait three or four days. That’s a big no-no. When your lawyer calls you, that usually means that things are moving and responses are needed from you. There aren’t many lawyers that call to waste a client’s time. It’s their job to gather this information.
If You’re Working With A Good Attorney, You’ll Have The Comfort Level Of Knowing That You Can Pick Up The Phone. You’ll Have Reasonable Boundaries And Expectations.
In my opinion, potential clients should interview their lawyers. Lawyers are not going to have all of the answers in the first hour of meeting them. However, a lot of clients come in wanting to know how their matter is going to be resolved. They want to know how long it’s going to take, how much it’s going to cost, and who is going to get what they want. Frankly, we don’t know. Most lawyers would agree that in it’s virtually impossible to know exactly the answers to those questions in a short 30–45-minute interview.
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