My attorney is ignoring me. How do I fix this issue (or help avoid it to begin with)?

Wed, May 16, 2012

General Legal Issues

We all know attorneys are busy people. But that is not an excuse to repeatedly ignore clients.

One of the best ways to gauge whether or not a specific attorney is right for your case is by asking many types of questions during an initial consultation. Make sure you ask questions about their skills and previous cases, of course. But also make sure that you think you can talk openly with this attorney and that they will be attentive to your case. Make sure that you think they will be helpful in explaining why one arrangement or decision is better than another. And make sure you understand how they bill for their time.

If you want lots of advice and guidance, then you need to be sure that you and the attorney can communicate well and often within your budget. Some ways to find this out are by asking:

  • What do you see as a timeline for my type of case?
  • What is your caseload like now?
  • Are you going to be out of the office for extended periods during my case?
  • How often will I typically be hearing from your office?
  • Who will I be discussing the case with–you or your staff? If it will be your staff, can I meet them too?
  • What is the best way to get in touch with you? E-mail or phone? How do you prefer to communicate?
  • How do you bill for your time and services?

These questions are helpful in helping decide if this attorney is right for you and your case. For example, if you know that you want to speak only to the attorney on your case and no one else–you are not going to be happy discussing it with his paralegal. If that does not bother you, but it turns out you do not like the paralegal—then you need to meet them too. And if you attorney only emails, then be sure you will be ok with that.

So, let’s say you have hired the attorney you think is best for your case. However, after a while, you have a hard time getting in touch with them and you feel ignored. What should you do? If you usually phone, try emailing or even faxing a quick note saying you really need to speak with them (and vice-versa if you usually e-mail). If this does not work, try reaching the paralegal or assistant. (And if it is the paralegal/assistant that is ignoring you—then make sure you try the attorney directly.) Give it another day or two if you can—perhaps the attorney is in trial. If these measures are not working to your satisfaction, take the step of indicating that you might need to seek other representation. And if this does not get you a response, try contacting the Florida Bar. This link offers some advice on handling an inattentive attorney (as well as other problems). The Florida Bar also has a team called the Attorney Consumer Assistance Program (ACAP) that works with clients that are unable to resolve problems with their attorneys.

Some clients have inappropriate expectations of their lawyer’s attentiveness. However, a good attorney should discuss this with their client, instead of just ignoring them. Then, if they are not able to work it out, they can discuss ending the attorney/client relationship together. SmithLaw feels no attorney should repeatedly leave his or her client out in the cold wondering what is going on.

Image credit: nedrichards

 

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