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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 best 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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