If a problem arises with your lawyer, what you can do?
Many of the enquiries and complaints that we receive about lawyers are often caused by communication breakdowns.
Often things are left unsaid for too long, or not explained simply or clearly enough and by the time we find out about it your working relationship with your lawyer has hit a low point.
If you have a problem with a lawyer's behaviour, their legal costs or the work they have done, it’s best to deal with these issues straight away.
Here's some tips to consider
- Ask your lawyer to explain things to you in simple language if they use lots of legal words that you are not sure of.
Keep your own notes
- Write down your concerns with key dates and save any emails or correspondence from your lawyer.
Raise your concerns
- Call them and ask to speak about your concerns. If they are busy you may need to arrange a time that suits both of you.
- You can also check the lawyer’s website for how they manage feedback or complaints (or call their office) if your complaint is about a lawyer’s behaviour and you are not their client.
- Explain why you feel they are not providing the level of service you expect, and ask them for their response. You can ask, "What can you do to fix these issues and by when?"
Tell them what you want
- Explain what you would like from them and why. You can start by saying, “I think a good solution to my concerns would be to…”
Listen to their response
- Take time to listen to what they have to say in response – even if you don’t agree at first.
Accept a solution you agree with in writing
- Make sure you both agree in writing on what you have decided to do to fix the problem. This can be done via email or postal mail.
Managing conflict if you can't agree
- If you can’t agree, find out from your lawyer what the next step is and what this means for the remainder of the legal work you had agreed for them to do on your behalf.
- Write down notes from your conversation.
- Ask them to read back what they have said to you and make sure you understand it correctly. You may need to refer to this information when you speak to their boss, or if necessary contact us.
- If you feel comfortable, explain what you would like to do next and why.
- Unless you tell them, and confirm it in writing, that you no longer want them to act as your lawyer they will continue the work you have hired them to do and charge you for it.
- You can take your legal matter to another lawyer, but be aware that a new lawyer does not have to accept your case. If you change lawyers in between a court matter, for example, it can take a new lawyer more time to get up to speed with things. This may add to the cost of their work. They may also suggest different ways to deal with your legal issue.
- You have to decide if you want to accept their advice or keep on the same path as you agreed with your original lawyer. Ask them why their advice is different and why it’s better.
- Your current lawyer can keep your legal file until you have paid their bill. If you have a ‘no win-no fee’ agreement and you change lawyers, you may have to pay any legal fees incurred by that time. Check your arrangements with them or contact us for more information.
Ask us for help
- We help people resolve disputes about legal costs and the quality of service provided by a lawyer.
- We can offer you information on how you can resolve your issue, or we can investigate complaints about lawyers who may have breached their professional obligations.
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