Your lawyer is supposed to do everything he or she can to help you win your case. The accident was not your fault. Your PIP has run out. You have medical bills. Collectors are starting to call. And you’re still in pain. You need help. You’re scared. What do you do?
First of all, you’re absolutely correct in thinking that your attorney should do everything he can for you. He is not only ethically obligated, he is legally required to. The Oregon Rules of Professional Conduct (ORPC) states simply – and that’s rare in legal documents – that “[a] lawyer shall not neglect a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer.”
The most common complaint we hear is that lawyers do not return phone calls promptly and communication is lacking.
The lawyer also has the responsibility to communicate fully with the client. If you are not happy with the way things are going, or the way your attorney is handling your case, ask about it. Talk about how you want the case handled, or admit to your self, “I’m not happy with my lawyer.”
“[A] lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation and . . . shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are pursued.” (ORPC 1.2(a))
We suggest taking these three steps:
- Talk to your current attorney about your concerns. Discuss some ways the lawyer can better meet your needs (but make sure your expectations are realistic as well).
- Give your lawyer time to show improvement (while still keeping in mind that you only have a certain amount of time to file your claim).
- If the lawyer improves, great! If not, consider calling other attorneys to get a second opinion on your claim.
Remember, you have the right to disengage from your attorney at any point, but this is not always the best option. Since your attorney has been working on your case, 1) s/he might understand your case better than another attorney, 2) you might owe your first attorney money from your settlement if you decide to hire a second attorney. If your attorney is not putting time and energy into your claim, however, sometimes finding another lawyer is the only way you can get the compensation you deserve.
The client also has the right to speak with another attorney at any time. While we try to communicate with our clients on a regular basis, not all attorneys have such a policy.