When you hire a lawyer to represent you regarding a legal matter, a special two-way relationship is created in which both parties expect to reach a satisfactory resolution to the problem at hand. In a lawyer-client relationship, both parties are expected to act responsibly from the initial consultation until a verdict or settlement is reached. However, during the course of litigation, conflicts can emerge between a lawyer and their client. If a case does not go as the client expected, it’s naturally easy to blame the attorney. While in most instances the attorney’s actions were not to blame, in some cases the client may have some genuine concerns. If this happens, there are many types of recourse available to the client.
Fire the Lawyer
While this may sound extreme, many clients do this when they feel as if they are not getting adequate representation. But before taking this drastic step, talk to your lawyer and express any concerns you have regarding the outcome of your case. If the lawyer is unwilling to discuss your concerns or the two of you simply are at an impasse, it’s to fire your lawyer and seek the services of a new attorney. However, be advised that if you take this step, your lawyer may be allowed to keep your files until you have paid a reasonable fee for any work already completed.
A Question of Ethics
Along with times when clients simply feel as if their lawyer used a poor strategy with their case, there are other times when a lawyer may have acted unethically. For example, if the lawyer displayed a clear lack of competence in handling the case, charged an outrageous fee for their work, or represented the client despite having a conflict of interest, the client can bring ethics violations to the attention of the state’s bar association. If it is determined the lawyer did commit ethics violations, a variety of punishments can result, which can include being reprimanded, having their license suspended, or being disbarred, which strips them of their license indefinitely or perhaps permanently depending upon the severity of the violations.
In extreme cases where a client believes their lawyer committed negligence that resulted in them losing money or having their legal rights injured, a malpractice suit can be pursued against the attorney. While rare overall, these cases do arise from time to time.
Client Security Fund
If a lawyer settles a case out of court but refuses to pay the client their share of the settlement, the client can contact the state bar association and be put in touch with their state’s client security fund. These funds, which reimburse clients if a court determines their lawyer defrauded them, are set up to protect clients from receiving nothing due to the negligence of their lawyer. However, because the funds in these programs are used to pay numerous settlements, there is rarely enough money in them to provide total reimbursement to each and every client.
While in most situations the lawyer-client relationship goes very smoothly, there are times when various measures such as the ones listed here must be used. Whether it’s hiring the services of another attorney or contacting a bar association regarding possible ethics violations, there are numerous avenues of recourse available to dissatisfied clients.
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What if my attorney is going to sue me if I don’t pay more?
Most people have a set fee schedule when it comes to retaining a lawyer. There are times when an attorney might start demanding more money for no apparent reason. Whether it be a Chicago criminal lawyer, or an NYC divorce lawyer, those attorneys could even threaten clients with lawsuits. Here is what to do if your attorney is going to sue you if you do not pay more.
Review Your Initial Agreement or Contract
You need to start by reviewing your initial agreement or contract with the attorney threatening to sue you. The contract should outline how much you owe the attorney. It might also potentially list if there is a payment schedule that you were supposed to meet. You need to find this information out right away in order to know what is going on. You might run into problems if the agreement is overly vague about payments and fees.
Gather Your Payment Records
Gather up all of your payment records related to your attorney. Request them from your bank if necessary. You want to have documentation of every time that you paid the attorney for services or fees. Collect up any receipts that the lawyer might have given you along the way. This type of evidence will be invaluable when trying to prove your side of the case.
Schedule a Meeting
Schedule an in-person meeting with your attorney after gathering up your records. Sit down and calmly discuss why the attorney wants you to start paying more. Refer to the terms in your agreement if they contradict what your lawyer is saying. Show your records if the attorney denies that you paid certain amounts. A face-to-face meeting can potentially clear up misunderstandings. If you seem to be in the wrong, then use the meeting to attempt to negotiate a payment plan or settlement.
Consider Fee Arbitration
If your attorney is continuing to threaten to sue you over payments, then consider going through fee arbitration. This is a service provided by your local State Bar Association. Fee arbitration involves a neutral third-party who will review your initial contract, your payments and the claims of your attorney. The arbiter will listen to statements from both sides. The arbiter can then determine whether you actually owe the money or whether the attorney is correct in demanding higher payments. You should only attempt fee arbitration if you feel that you are in the right or the lawyer is violating your agreement.
Retain a New Attorney
You should retain a new attorney if a solution cannot be found. You need an independent attorney who will be able to defend you against the threats and legal actions of the lawyer asking for more money. This is important because some attorneys might use intimidation, deception and other tactics to trick you into just agreeing to an unfavorable settlement. Retaining a new attorney can help to stop this. You will also need a lawyer to represent you in the inevitable lawsuit at this point. A successful defense in court is often the only way to prove that you do not owe the money if things have come this far.
Think About Filing a Grievance
You might want to think about filing a grievance if the actions of your attorney were particularly egregious. This could mean the threats went too far and included violence. There could be ethical problems with the way the contract was written. The lawyer might just have acted completely inappropriately when demanding more money. You can contact your State Bar Associate to file a grievance against your lawyer. That could change things.