Building A Good Relationship With Your Lawyer
Before you enter into an agreement with a lawyer to represent your interests-whether in court or a private matter-it’s best to understand what kind of relationship you can expect.
In Alaska, lawyers are bound by rules of conduct and ethics as members of the Bar. At the same time, you, as the client, have responsibilities in the relationship.
Here’s a brief summary of your rights and responsibilities to guide you in choosing and working with your lawyer.
- Your Rights as a Client
- Your Responsibilities & Obligations as a Client
- Other Client Rights: Fee Disputes, Complaints and Records
You are entitled to:
- your lawyer’s best professional judgment and experience in handling your case.
- have your lawyer respect your legitimate goals when you ask for his or her assistance in a legal matter (including whether to settle your case).
- full loyalty from your lawyer and to representation without conflicts of interest with other cases your lawyer may be handling.
- have your lawyer respect your right to privacy and the confidentiality of statements and information you provide in your case, unless your lawyer is required to disclose this information under the laws of the state or decisions and rules of the appellate courts.
- have your lawyer answer any questions and concerns promptly.
- diligence, courtesy, and consideration from your lawyer and others in his or her office at all times.
- be kept informed on the status of your case, including, at your request, copies of documents and papers received or prepared by your lawyer, so that you can participate meaningfully in the relationship.
- expect your lawyer to keep up with state and federal laws, court decisions, and other legal developments, especially in the areas your lawyer practices.
- be notified in writing if your lawyer does not have malpractice insurance coverage amounts set out in the Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct, or if his or her coverage is less than this level.
- negotiate and be charged a reasonable fee and to have your fee and billing arrangements fully explained by your lawyer. Your lawyer must be willing to explain fee structures to you (such as flat fees, hourly charges, fees that depend upon the outcome of your case, or other methods of payments, for example). You have a right to a written fee agreement if fees will exceed $1,000, and to receive a fully itemized accounting of charges when they are billed to you. You have the right to question any charges you believe are unreasonable, and to be billed at a reasonable interval for your lawyer’s services.
- end your relationship with your lawyer if you are not satisfied with the service you have received (although the court must approve of this change in some cases, and you will be responsible for any fees due up to the date you ended the relationship).
As a lawyer’s client, you have the responsibility to:
- be truthful in all discussions with your lawyer.
- give your lawyer all the information you have about your case, both good and bad.
- notify your lawyer of any changes in your situation or the case being handled.
- treat your lawyer and staff with courtesy and consideration.
- work cooperatively with your lawyer.
- pay your legal fees and your lawyer’s expenses in your case promptly as agreed in the fee arrangement you made.
Your rights as a client are protected in other ways.
- request information from the Alaska Bar Association about your lawyer’s public discipline record (if any).
- file a written complaint with the Alaska Bar Association if you believe your lawyer has acted unethically.
- request the Alaska Bar Association to arbitrate any fee disputes you may have with your lawyer.