By William L. Baskette, Esq.
Sometimes a lawyer does a disservice to his client inadvertently through neglect. Your attorney is licensed by the State of Texas to represent you zealously within the law. This means he is obligated to do his best for you that he can under the rules.
An attorney-client relationship is one of the most important relationships recognized by law. What you tell your lawyer is confidential. He acts as your agent for you, speaks for you, draws legal documents that affect you, appears in court and communicates your rights to you. You trust him with your money to do the job he promised to do for you. When something goes wrong with the relationship, and you cannot work it out with your lawyer, you may file a complaint with the State Bar of Texas.
Do not ask your lawyer to make guarantees, and beware of the attorney who promises you a guaranteed result. No matter how sure he is, you have a chance of being disappointed. A lawyer is not in total control of your situation, and cannot anticipate every possibility that might occur. Things might come up to that no one can anticipate, no matter how well he says he knows the law or the judge.
When an attorney represents you, be sure that your legal fee agreement is in writing and you understand it well. Always provide your attorney with your current information, such as your address and telephone number, and always carry his business card with you. Many clients disappear, leaving the lawyer without a means to get in touch with them. The #1 complaint against lawyers is that they do not return phone calls or keep the client informed. Do not pester the lawyer with daily phone calls that are not important, or can wait for a conference, but be sure to call him when you have a problem. It is better to ask his advice before you do something, rather than ask him how to get out of trouble later. If your lawyer does not communicate with you, then you might have a valid complaint against him.
You will not always see eye-to-eye with your attorney. If you disagree, then discuss it with him. Don’t hire a lawyer, and then go around the neighborhood asking other people what you should do. If you lack confidence in your lawyer, you may have to go to another attorney. It is your case that is at stake.
If you have kept in touch with your attorney, but feel that he has wronged you in some way, then talk to him about it. If he works in a law firm, you might talk to his boss. You may consult with another attorney to ask his advice on how your lawyer is handling your case, remembering that not all lawyers do things the same way. If you feel you are getting nowhere, then you may file a complaint. Many law offices have the forms available for you to file with the local grievance committee. You may call the State Bar of Texas at 1-800-204-2222, and ask the General Counsel’s office to send you a complaint form and then follow up on your complaint. Filing a complaint is free, and is not as complicated as filing a malpractice suit.
When your lawyer lets you down, he also lets down all lawyers. Bad reputations come from a few bad lawyers. Fortunately, we citizens have a right to do something about it, and are encouraged to do so. Each complaint that is filed is reviewed to see if it states a valid case. If it does state a case for you, the lawyer will have to file a response to your charges. If the issue is not resolved, then a hearing is held before a panel of lawyers and non-lawyers to determine whether there is a case of lawyer misconduct. The case could go to court if the State Bar considers the matter to be serious enough. A bad attorney may even lose his license. There are many complaints that we might have against attorneys. Better communication will resolve most of them; the State Bar may resolve the rest.