If you’re in a position where you need to hire a lawyer, it’s likely already unpleasant. You don’t typically hire a lawyer for the good times, but they’re an important asset in many situations that are stressful and difficult.
You want a lawyer who’s going to always represent your best interests and put them first. You also want someone that, on a personal level, you get along with, feel comfortable with, and trust.
With that in mind, it’s a good idea to do a lot of research upfront before you hire anyone. For example, you might look for reviews of the best Phoenix law firms or reviews of the firms wherever you live.
You can find out a lawyer’s background and credentials, their licensing, and how some of the clients may have felt about their work.
What if you hire someone you think is going to be great, however, and they end up ignoring you?
You may be surprised, but clients feeling like they’re ignored by their lawyer is a big issue.
So what should you know and what can you do?
Reasons Attorneys Are Hard to Reach
When you first hire an attorney, you should go over your expectations as far as communication and when they’ll respond to your calls or emails.
Even with this upfront clarification, there may be times where you don’t hear from your lawyer. That can make you feel anxious, and you might wonder what’s going on.
There are cases where lawyers have a good reason for not responding, and they are often incredibly busy, especially if they’re good at what they do.
Some of the legitimate reasons that an attorney might not respond right away include:
- They have nothing to report to you, and you don’t have any upcoming deadlines. Your lawyer will usually try to reserve communication until they really need to let you know something to avoid wasting both of your time.
- Attorneys again have other cases, and those cases may have short-term deadlines approaching.
- A lawyer isn’t your therapist and is operating a business. That requires their attention and time being spent in a lot of areas at once.
- Some lawyers may be reluctant to talk to you too much if they don’t feel like you’re listening to their advice.
If a lawyer responds but just takes their time in doing so, that doesn’t mean they’re bad at what they do, and there may be some fault in your expectations.
With that in mind, there are instances where a lack of communication can be a significant problem.
Communication and the Code of Professional Conduct
While a bit of a delay might be acceptable, altogether lawyer’s ignoring you isn’t, according to the American Bar Association.
The ABA has rules of professional conduct that clearly lay out how a lawyer is to communicate with their client.
For example, an attorney is required to promptly let their client know about any decisions or circumstances that have arisen and consult with the client about how to achieve their objectives. Attorneys are required to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of their case, and promptly reply when they’re asked for information.
A lawyer needs to explain what’s going on to their client clearly enough for them to make informed decisions as well.
The big issues arise when there are distinctions in how a client sees the terms prompt, informed, and reasonable compared to how the attorney sees those terms.
What If Your Attorney Really Isn’t Responding?
If it’s more than a delay and you reasonably believe your lawyer is ignoring you, there are things you can do.
A good first step is to send a certified letter directly to the office and ask why you’re not getting a response. You should let the attorney know that you can and will find a new one if you have to.
Then, you might hear back from your lawyer agreeing to communicate more, or perhaps he or she will tell you that they don’t believe it’s a good idea for you to continue working together.
If, after writing a letter, you find that you’re unable to work with your lawyer and you’re unhappy with their services, don’t threaten them or become too emotional. It’s a much better idea to let them know officially that you are finding someone new.
You should probably find a second lawyer before you fire your first one to evaluate your case and let you know about how to go about filing a complaint, if that’s your intention, to your state’s legal disciplinary board.