The Attorney-Client Relationship
When you engage the services of an attorney, particularly in the area of family law, it is essential that you feel comfortable with the person who is going to be representing you. The relationship between an attorney and a client is both special and multi-faceted. There is the legal nature of the relationship, the quality of legal services you expect, and the specific goals that you want your attorney to attempt to achieve on your behalf. There is also what we believe is the most important aspect of the relationship – that you have trust and confidence in the person and the firm representing you.
The reason trust and confidence are so important is because without it, you will be less likely to accept and act on your attorney’s advice. And you can have the best lawyer in the world, but if you ignore the lawyer’s advice, you are, in effect, representing yourself. To obtain the benefit of having a good lawyer, you need to accept the advice given, and take whatever steps your attorney recommends that you take.
What is the Legal Relationship between Client and Attorney?
The relationship between an attorney and a client, as a technical matter, is contractual. This means that the client has come to the attorney for advice or assistance, and the attorney has agreed to provide it to the extent reasonably possible. The client is the principal in the relationship, and the attorney is the agent who acts on behalf of the client. The lawyer is also a fiduciary, meaning, at least in part, that the attorney is under an obligation to act in the best interests of the client, regardless of the attorney’s own interests.
What are the Obligations of the Attorney-Client Relationship?
The obligations of an attorney to a client are spelled out in detail in the Texas Rules of Professional Conduct. Without trying to list all of a lawyer’s duties, here are some of the more important of those obligations:
- Diligent Representation. The relationship requires the attorney to represent the client diligently, which includes a duty to be reasonably prompt and conscientious in that representation and covers and area within the attorney’s field of knowledge and competence.
- The duty to disclose and, if necessary, decline representation, in the event of a conflict of interest. This means that an attorney generally is prohibited from representing a client whose interests are adverse to those of another client, or where a significant risk exists that the attorney’s representation of others will materially limit the responsibilities to the new client. In some cases, these conflicts can be waived through the written consent of all potentially affected clients.
- Confidentiality and Attorney Client Privilege. With certain exceptions, the law generally protects from disclosure information provided by the client to the attorney. This protection includes not only disclosures by the attorney acting on his or her own behalf, but also against demands involving requests for discovery, and even testimony under oath. This is important in all cases, but it is particularly meaningful in family law matters. In addition, if a person meets with an attorney, discusses a legal issue expecting that the attorney will be engaged to handle it, the attorney client privilege applies even if it turns out that for some reason, the attorney does not end up representing that person.
There is obviously more to the relationship between a lawyer and the person represented, but the items above are a few of the more important ones.
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Law Office of Mary Quinn
106 Avondale St.
Houston, TX 77006