Tips on consulting attorney

WHAT TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING AN ATTORNEY?:

The client should contact various attorneys’ firms and ask questions so that they are satisfied that the firm has experience in the type of work that they need done. Attorneys often specialize in certain areas of the law and can also be conveyancers and notaries.

THE INITIAL CONSULTATION

You should have all the necessary information available at the initial consultation, as well as note the salient issues that you feel need to be discussed. Attorneys charge for time (as is the case with most professionals) and as such, keep the time with your attorney as brief as necessary in order to curb expenses.

The attorney should listen to the prospective client, explain their fee structure in an understandable way and give the prospective client an indication of the merits of the matter.

THE ATTORNEYS OBLIGATIONS TO THE CLIENT

An attorney’s obligations are set out in legislation and the rules of the law society in the province in which they practice. In short, an attorney is required to provide a professional legal service to their client for a reasonable fee. The attorney is also expected to keep their client informed about the developments regarding the client’s matter.

Often attorneys require the client to pay a deposit at the commencement of a matter. These funds must be placed in the attorneys trust account, from which the attorney may draw their fees and disbursements incurred with proper accounts being rendered to the client. It is also important that an attorney accounts to the client during the course of the matter and at the end of the matter.

The client is, at all times, entitled to expect a professional, effective and efficient execution of their instructions at a reasonable fee.

THE CLIENTS OBLIGATION TO THE ATTORNEY

Although the client can expect to receive reasonable updates from the attorney regarding the matter, clients should not direct unnecessary enquiries to the attorney. Attorneys will invariably charge for such consultations, telephone calls or correspondence which will increase costs unnecessarily. The client must respond quickly to requests from the attorney for information.

IF YOU ARE NOT SATISFIED WITH YOUR ATTORNEY

If a client is unhappy with the attorney, they may cancel their mandate to act on their behalf. Should you wish to instruct another attorney, you must pay any outstanding monies to the initial attorney in order that you may uplift your file. If you fail to do so, the attorney may exercise a lien over the file until payment is received. In addition, it is unethical for a new attorney to act if the previous attorney has not been paid. If you feel you have overpaid your attorney, you may approach the Law Society in the relevant province to have your bill taxed.

If a client believes the attorney has behaved unethically, the client may lodge a complaint with the provincial law society. Be careful not to defame the attorney so choose your words carefully. It is imperative that you pay your attorney and that you make provision for their fees as an attorney has the right to sue erstwhile clients in the event that their fees remain unpaid. If you are unable to pay the amount in full, discuss payment with the attorney and make arrangements to pay the sum owed in installments if necessary.

About the authorAndrea Goldman is a Partner at Goldman Schultz Attorneys. For more information contact info@gslaw.co.za or www.gslaw.co.za