Tips for hiring an Attorney

Lawyer / Attorneys Obligations

Questions that should be asked before appointing an attorney.

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  • What obligations does an attorney have to you?

    • Lawyers are not immune to legal actions and dissatisfied clients can exercise their rights to take lawyers to court in South Africa. The law has set out various scenarios where an aggrieved client can pursue an action against a lawyer. The provisions move to hold lawyers accountable and further the interests of the clients to adequate and competent representation. For instance, clients are protected from the incompetency of a lawyer by ensuring that the lawyer has the required experience in the field they intend to practice.

  • Obligations a lawyer has

    • What is attorney-client privilege?

      • Lawyers are required to act and behave ethically towards clients and failure to do this opens the lawyer to disciplinary proceedings. The ethical standards include but are not limited to having separate accounts for their office and the clients to ensure they are not attempted to use client's money for personal use. If a lawyer fails to do this and uses a client's money for personal use, the client can take a legal action against the lawyer. The rules are found in a code of conduct that regulates the behaviour of the lawyers.

  • Where a lawyer improperly handles the case

    • One of the other reasons clients can take legal action against the lawyer is whether the lawyer acts negligently in the cause of the case. Negligence can be in terms of the lawyer failing to disclose they lack experience in the nature of your case. The lawyer is also required to communicate the progress of the case to the client. If a lawyer fails to act diligently and eventually lead to the client's case being dismissed, the client can take an action against the lawyer for negligence.

  • If a lawyer promises to win the case and fails

    • This does not mean that a lawyer should win all cases. In certain circumstances, even the best lawyers can lose a case even where they acted diligently. However, a lawyer should not mislead a client that the case is a sure winner and the client will win the case. As such, a lawyer should be honest with the client and avoid misleading a client.

  • Conflict of interest

    • One of the other reasons the client can take a legal action against the lawyer is where the lawyer is conflicted. A lawyer is not allowed to act in the event they have a conflict of interest. For instance, a lawyer cannot represent you and another client who has similar adverse interests to yours. If a lawyer is to find themselves in such a situation, they should not proceed and should cease acting for the person who came after. The rule moves to protect the client from potential biasness by the lawyer who may favour the other client. If a client finds himself or herself in such a situation, they may either fire their lawyer or take legal action of they discover later in the case when the damage is done.

  • Attorney Client privilege

    • One of the other reasons a client can take an action against their lawyer is where the lawyer makes information public that falls within the client-privileged rules. While the lawyer is allowed some exceptions to the client-privilege rule, what is said between a lawyer and a client should remain confidential. As such, if a lawyer discloses the information to another party in circumstances that do not allow the disclosure, a client can take legal action against the lawyer. If a client is of the view that the lawyer has mishandled their matter and have an unfavourable outcome, they should lodge a complaint and take a legal action against the lawyer. It is however essential to take into consideration the veracity of the matter and whether it is just a misunderstanding between the client and the lawyer. If it is a misunderstanding, the same can be resolved. However, if it is not, the lawyer can b held accountable for mishandling the case.

  • Holding documents in lien

    • The client can also take legal action if the lawyer holds in lien property such as a logbook or title deed of the client. While there are instances where a lawyer can hold in lien the property of the client, if the client is of the view that his documents are being held in an unjustified manner, the client can take a legal action against the lawyer. Lawyers are allowed to hold in lien documents of the clients for instance of they are after their fees and have not been paid by the client. However, if it is unjustified, legal action can be taken.

  • Where a lawyer overcharges a client

    • A client can also take legal action against the lawyer if the lawyer overcharges him. While in most of the instances the legal fee is agreed beforehand, lawyers have at times reviewed upwards the figures in an unjustified way. Also, where there is no prior agreement, the lawyer may overcharge the client. Where a client is of the view that the lawyer has overcharged them, the client can lodge a complaint at the provincial offices of the society to have the issue corrected. The lawyer will have the opportunity to justify the fees charged and if it is deemed excessive, the client can have the fee reviewed downwards.

  • When a client is unhappy with a lawyer

    • Where the client is unhappy with a lawyer, they are required to fire him and file a notice of change of lawyer. The client can proceed to hire another advocate. The Client can file their displeasure with the conduct of the lawyer at various offices of the society in their provinces. The society has powers to investigate the conduct of the lawyer. In the event the lawyer is found to have acted negligently or breached the code of ethics, disciplinary proceedings can be taken against the lawyer.