When you hire a lawyer and become a client, what rights do you have? Put slightly differently, what should you expect and what can you demand from your attorney? Fair questions that need real answers. At a high level, lawyers must act as a fiduciary for their clients, putting the client’s interests first. But what does it mean to be a fiduciary? Here’s what you should demand from me:
Good service. Competent representation, effective legal counsel, a job well done. If you’re not receiving good service from your lawyer, you should look elsewhere.
Strong communication. You should hear from me as often as you’d like to hear from me. I should return your calls/texts/emails reasonably quickly, even if I don’t yet have the answer to everything you’ve asked. Clients get aggravated when they haven’t heard from their lawyer, and they should.
Loyalty. I’m your lawyer, and that means I’m on your side. Now maybe there’s no burning conflict or dispute to worry about right now, but if there ever is, you need to know that there are no conflicts of interest that will cause trouble.
Confidentiality. The attorney-client privilege has existed for at least 400 years, and society has valued it for a simple reason. You should be able to share the full story with your lawyer, with a reasonable expectation that it will stay confidential. Once you become a client, information you share will be held in the strictest confidence.
There are of course many other things you should expect from your attorney. Integrity. Reasonable fees. Transparent billing. Malpractice insurance. Access to your file. But the elements above form the core of what it means for me to serve as a fiduciary for clients. Hopefully you’re getting all that from me and any other lawyer that represents you.