The Attorney-Client Relationship
Texas attorneys are required to adhere to strict codes of professional responsibility that are enforced by the bar association of their state. These codes include standards of conduct, privileges, ethics and professionalism.
A Lawyer’s Responsibilities to a Client
A lawyer is required to follow some basic rules on ethics and responsibility. He must:
- Come prepared for all court hearings
- Communicate with his clients in a timely manner
- Lawfully, ethically and zealously represent the client to the best of his ability
- Keep a client’s funds in an escrow account
- Examine all of the evidence at hand and apply his knowledge to the issues of a case
- Closely follow a client’s wishes in handling a case (unless the client’s demands are against the law)
- Avoid all activities that create potential conflicts of interest
- Return a client’s assets when requested
- Maintain the client’s privacy and confidentiality
- Not engage in a personal relationship with a client
- Demonstrate loyalty to his clients
- Keep the client’s best interests at the forefront of all legal decisions
In some states of litigation, an attorney might have other obligations to a client. Any lawyer who does not comply with these guidelines may be disbarred or charged with malpractice.
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A Client’s Responsibilities to a Lawyer
When a client pays a retainer fee, it is customary for the lawyer to review the client’s responsibilities. If a client adheres to these responsibilities, he and his lawyer may communicate better, be more prepared for court appearances and, most importantly, have a higher chance of winning the case. Once retainer fees are paid, the client is expected to uphold his or her responsibilities.
The following are the most common client obligations:
- Be completely honest with the lawyer at all times
- Cooperate with the lawyer and do all that he asks
- Give attention to details and items that are time-sensitive
- Attend every scheduled legal proceeding
- Make regular payments of legal bills
A client may have obligations to his lawyer even if a retainer fee has not been paid. If a client fails to abide by these responsibilities, his attorney may decide to terminate his legal services.