One of the most misunderstood relationships in professional service today is the special relationship that is formed between a client and attorney, often simply called the attorney-client relationship. Regardless of the kind of attorney you work with, this relationship still exists. This is true whether you are working with private attorneys and even automobile accident attorneys. If you’ve been involved in a car accident and are working with an auto accident attorney, it is important that you understand exactly what the attorney-client relationship is and how it is there to provide you with protection.
Defining the Attorney-Client Relationship
The attorney-client relationship is very important in the legal world today. It is a legally recognized relationship that provides you with protection by law. Just like a doctor or a spouse, a lawyer is one of the few people who cannot be forced to testify against you when that information could be incriminating. Under this relationship, your attorney will have very specific obligations to you, and if he or she fails to fulfill these obligations, they may be penalized. Penalties may include fines, malpractice, and/or loss of the right to practice law.
When the Attorney-Client Relationship Forms
The attorney-client relationship is formed the moment you are sure that the attorney in question is representing you in your legal matter. This belief can be distinctly expressed as in a formal agreement, or implied. While an attorney-client relationship may be formed as soon as a client pays a retainer to the attorney or signs some form a contract, the relationship may also be formed as soon a client reveals any sort of confidential or privileged information about their claim to an attorney. If the attorney makes a call on the client’s behalf, the relationship may be formed. And even something as simple as asking for legal advice from an attorney in an informal setting may form the attorney-client relationship.
What the Attorney-Client Relationship Implies
When an attorney-client relationship forms, there are a number of implications of this relationship. First, lawyers owe their clients a fiduciary duty. This means that the attorney must act with the utmost care when it comes to their client’s interests. If a lawyer doesn’t behave in a responsible manner toward their client’s interests, or they fall short of the kind of behavior that is expected from a competent lawyer, you may be able to sue them for malpractice.
In addition to this fiduciary duty, an attorney cannot represent someone else if a conflict of interest exists. This means that as soon as the attorney-client relationship forms between you and your attorney, your attorney must refuse any work that might conflict with his duty to you as an existing client.
Lastly, an attorney-client relationship is one of privilege. Whatever you tell your attorney in confidence cannot be repeated by that attorney. There are very few exceptions to this rule, such as if a client says they are going to harm someone and the attorney believes that the client may actually do harm to themselves or someone else.