Facts Beyond The Contract Between The Attorney And The Client
The relation between the Attorney and the Client is certainly contractual from the date of signature of the Engagement letter. The Attorney will receive instructions from the Client and is obligated to provide a legal service in exchange of the payment of legal fees by the Client. However, we cannot simply summarize the relationship between the Attorney and the Client to the contractual obligations. In fact, the relationship between the Attorney and the Client is one that is built on trust, confidence and confidentiality.
The Attorney takes instructions from the Client and becomes familiar with the facts of the case. It is important that the Client provides a detailed summary of the facts to allow the Attorney to make a proper assessment of the Client’s case. It is also the duty of the Attorney to ask questions and take the time to interview the Client and build a case strategy to make the right legal decisions. When the Attorney becomes aware with all facts connected with his Client’s case, he can establish the weak and strong points and advise accordingly.
The Attorney’s knowledge of the Client’s case must be kept confidential as this is one of the duties of the Attorney to the Client, failing which the Attorney can be sanctioned severely by the Attorney’s regulator in the relevant country of jurisdiction as well as such failure of confidentiality can be detrimental to the Client’s case financially. This rule is usually included in the Engagement letter and the Attorney must act with reasonable due diligence to protect the Client’s interest.
The Attorney must find the right balance between his ethical duties and professional responsibilities to the Client. These two are not contradictory and the Attorney must make a good judgment call if he/she considers that the Client’s interest would entail acting with dishonesty, committing fraud or violating legal ethics, in such case the Attorney must refuse to act for the Client.
In general, the Attorney should keep the Client reasonably and regularly informed about the progress of the matter and respond promptly to incoming requests from the Client for updates. The lack of communication can cause problems damaging the trust relationship between the Client and his Attorney. It is the duty of the Attorney to communicate with the Client in a manner which is convenient to them but it is always recommended to the Client to use the official channels of communication as mentioned in the Engagement letter or the Law Firm terms of business. Ignoring the Client’s emails and phone calls may make the Client feel that the Attorney is neglecting or is unfocused on their case. A great way to build the trust and loyalty of the Client is to reach out to the Client with an unprompted call or email to provide an update, whether it is significant or not, on the progress of their case.
It is also the responsibility of the Attorney to manage the Client’s expectation. In addition to communicating clearly, the Attorney must ensure that the Client understand exactly what he/she can do for them. Managing the Client’s expectations is key in the legal industry to avoid disappointment down the road. In other words, the Attorney should not make promises that he/she cannot keep, as doing such promises and underdelivering will ineluctably tarnish the Attorney’s reputation and damages the trust the Client has placed in the Attorney.
The Attorney must remember that he undertakes a contact job with the aim to serve the best interest of a Client. The Client must also remember that Attorneys and lawyers in general are humans and doing their best to provide a service which meets their expectations. The Client must abide by the terms of the Engagement letter and the terms of business which regulate their relationship. For example, the Attorney’s business hours must be respected and the Client should not expect their phone calls to be answered outside the business hours or weekends when the Attorney is away from his office. The Client must remember that the Attorney is a highly skilled professional who also spend some time outside his office and outside the business hours and deserves to be treated with respect to ensure that commercial relationship is sustainable.