In a perfect world, the following initial consultation with this carefully selected attorney after completing the review process, taking into account public reviews and recommendations from family and friends, will always result in a successful attorney-client relationship. In reality, such a relationship can still fail if all necessary due diligence obligations are met. What are the signs of an unproductive lawyer-client relationship?
An important sign is a lack of communication. Often times, customers feel that their calls are not being returned and their questions are not being answered. Like most professionals, lawyers are busy, but that doesn’t excuse them for ignoring clients. However, this does not mean that every attempt to communicate with their attorney must be addressed immediately by that attorney. The attorney may be in court or in a meeting and so cannot answer a call or reply to an email from the client. While the client has the right to expect a response from the lawyer within a reasonable period of time, it is also inconsiderate and inappropriate to turn to the lawyer after hours and expect an immediate response if there is no emergency.
The client should also remember that most lawyers charge fees for all communications with the client. It is therefore important for the client to distinguish between a lack of communication with their lawyer and any expectations of constant updates, especially if the lawyer has nothing to report. However, if the client doesn’t know what’s going on in their case, or if they can’t get an answer to a question and this happens frequently, it may be time to seek another lawyer.
Likewise, red flags should be hoisted by the client if there is no progress in the case, nothing is submitted to the court, no appointments are scheduled or no documents have been prepared, unless the reasons for such inaction are justified and have been adequately explained the customer. Of course, in almost all cases there are periods of stagnation caused by necessary legal proceedings, necessary waiting times or even delays by the other party. However, if the client finds that their guardian is disappearing and there is no actual work to show, such an attorney-client relationship should be reassessed for ineffectiveness.
Another red flag is the lack of an action plan. At the initial consultation, the attorney should be able to provide the client with a plan for how to proceed with the case after having familiarized himself with the client’s facts. Sometimes the attorney needs to conduct additional legal research to create such a plan, or sometimes the plan is created as a different alternative in response to changing circumstances. Regardless, it is always fair for the customer to expect that they know what the next step will be in this case.
While the lawyer-client relationship is professional, the matters in question are often sensitive and personal. Therefore, a certain level of empathy is expected from the lawyer. The best lawyers create a sense of care in the lawyer-client relationship. If the client feels that the lawyer is indifferent to his or her personal situation, it may not be a good sign of the future of such a relationship. Likewise, personality conflicts should not be ignored. The relationship between attorney and client can be long-lasting, so it is important that cooperation and interaction are also pleasant.
There are many ways to practice law and cultivate the relationship between lawyer and client. As with any professional agreement, it is important that both parties are happy with their relationship.
Natalia Vander Laan is a lawyer in Minden and owner of the law firm Vander Laan