March 7, 2011

Ask Peggy: After the Retainer

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What are a lawyer's responsibilities to a person they represent after the retainer has been paid? For instance is telling your client what's going on a responsibility and is there a reasonable amount of time to expect things to be done so that it would be considered timely?

Peggy Says:

Twenty three pages of the 600 page Missouri Court Rules (in any law library) deal with Rule 4, attorney client relationships. Rule 4-1.2 says specifically that a lawyer SHALL abide by a client’s decision concerning the objectives of representation…and SHALL consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer SHALL abide by a client’s decision (as to certain named tasks).

It’s not easy to determine the client’s objectives and means of pursuit of those objectives, if the lawyer does not keep the client informed.

Determining “reasonableness” as to time is always a problem and usually both the attorney and the client believe that their view is “reasonable.” If a client’s interests and objectives cannot be determined because of a failure or inability to communicate, it seems to me that either the client or the attorney should consider withdrawing from the relationship.

Posted by Peggy S. Hedrick at 5:00am

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Very pertinent information. I think there is always a question after they pay the retainer… What their role is, what they can demand, etc. Very good info to share!
Posted by Kay Hedrick on 3/7/2011 at 6:55am
Thanks, Kay. I was afraid that the comments weren’t specific enough to be helpful. Misunderstandings are common between lawyers and their clients.

The lawyer may want to focus on the problem, and feels that the time is wasted trying to keep the client informed as to each step taken…even though lots of lawyers feel that the clients are less likely to complain if they understand exactly what is going on, and the reasons for particular strategies. On the other hand client opinions go all the way from trying to micromanage complicated legal processes to telling the lawyer to “don’t bother me with the details!! Just take care of the problem and leave me out of it!!” What it boils down to is, they’ve got to TALK at the beginning of the relationship, and make sure they understand the other’s preferences, and work style. If the lawyer just doesn’t communicate to your satisfaction, find someone else. If the client requires more nurturing time than you have to give, help the client find another lawyer…

For more ideas on the subject try my web page, and scroll down toward the end of the “Finding a Lawyer” page:
Posted by Peggy Hedrick on 3/7/2011 at 5:18pm