QUESTION: What should I expect from my lawyer, what are his responsibilities to me?

James M. Edwards, P.C.
1401 17th Street, Suite 330
Denver, CO 80202
(303) 293-8191
FAX (303) 292-0924

ANSWER: You should expect that your lawyer will be able to leap over tall buildings in a single bound, be faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful than a locomotive. And to do all of that for free.
Realistically, your lawyer owes you several important duties. To put it most simply, your lawyer should not steal from you, nor cheat you, nor deceive you. Your lawyer should be able to handle the case in a competent, knowledgeable and effective manner. Your lawyer should inform you of all stages of the proceedings and advise you of potential risks and benefits. Your lawyer should stay active on your file and not let it sit idle. Your lawyer should take your phone calls and promptly return all messages. One of the largest sources of complaints against lawyers is that the lawyer neglected the matter.
Your lawyer should not guarantee results or a specific amount of a recovery, especially upon first meeting you. Your lawyer should make the billing arrangements clear so that you know what you are being charged and in what fashion. The hourly rate should be plainly set forth for all people working on the file: senior lawyers, associates, paralegals. Some firms charge the client for secretarial time or overtime. The lawyer should be clear on these type of charges and on all of the costs and expenses to be charged. Costs include items such as postage, photocopying, out of pocket expenses, deposition fees, court reporter charges, expert witness fees. The lawyer should not add surcharges to items such as postage, photocopies, or delivery services. A lawyer is entitled to recover the out of pocket expenses but should not make a profit on these items. If your lawyer will be out of town working on your file, is the lawyer flying first class and staying at the Ritz and charging it all to you? Be sure you know.
Your lawyer must provide you a written fee agreement if your case is being handled on a contingent fee basis. If your is an hourly fee case, or a flat fee case, then the scope of the representation should be clearly understood by all parties. Supreme Court rules require a written fee schedule be provided to new clients. Non-refundable retainers are not allowed by the Colorado Supreme Court and are improper. The lawyer should charge only for the work done. If the task takes less time than covered by the retainer you should receive a refund.
Also, does the lawyer charge interest on past due amounts? When does the account become past due? The best way to be sure of the terms is to put it in writing. These fee and engagement agreements should also spell out what happens in the event you fire the lawyer, or the lawyer wants to “fire†you as a client. There are times when a lawyer may properly retain your file or documents until the account is paid.

The bill you receive from your lawyer should show the work that is being done, the time it took and the amount you are being charged. You should be wary about repeated vague billing terms such as "file work" or "file review,", that could be a sign that your file is being "churned" just to generate fees. If you have questions about your bill then ask promptly.
Don't expect your lawyer to be your friend. Your lawyer should not go into business with you or loan you money. A lawyer should not represent both sides in a business transaction or a divorce, and in certain circumstances should not represent multiple persons claiming injury in the same accident. Do expect the lawyer to behave in a professional and courteous manner towards you and others involved in the process. The lawyer should not attack or berate the other side simply because you want it done, or because you have a personal grudge.
You must understand that while your lawyer may be your 'hired gun,' the lawyer also owes duties to the Court and the system. Thus there are times the lawyer cannot do what you want done. Your lawyer cannot put you on the witness stand knowing you are going to lie. Your lawyer cannot use the litigation process simply to exact revenge for you or wreak financial ruin on another person. There are times when your lawyer must disclose information to either the Court or the other side that is damaging to your case. The lawyer is required to do this. Your lawyer should not lie for you. If you lawyer is dishonest in dealing with others, what makes you think the lawyer is not also being dishonest with you?

In short you should expect the lawyer to do the best possible job under the circumstances. That does not mean the lawyer must win every dispute. So be aware of the circumstances and let your attorney know your situation. You should not expect the lawyer to hire the best experts in the world if you do not have the funds to pay for those experts or if the case is a small one. The amount at stake can play a significant role in how the attorney approaches the case. You shouldn't spend $20,000 in attorneys fees and costs if the most you can win is $25,000. The case should be scaled realistically to your budget, consideration should be given to your best case and worst case scenarios. Effective communication between you and your lawyer is critical to having an effective working relationship.


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JAMES M. EDWARDS, P.C. is a general practice law office with an emphasis on personal injury matters and motor vehicle claims. The office also handles traffic matters, criminal matters, insurance questions, and consumer issues. The office of JAMES M. EDWARDS, P.C. is located at 1401 17th Street, Suite 330, Denver, CO 80202, (303) 293-8191, Fax 292-0924. Initial consultations are available at no cost.

Copyright 2002, James M. Edwards, P.C. All Rights Reserved. No portion of this article may be reprinted or republished without permission of the author. The article is meant to advise the reader of general legal principles and trends. It is not case specific legal advice. If you would like further information, or would like to see a specific topic addressed in a future article, please contact the author.


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Denver Personal Injury Attorney

General Law Practice With An Emphasis On Personal Injury, Including, But Not Limited To:
Motorcycle Accidents
Auto Accidents
Truck Accidents
Industrial Accidents
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Premises Liability

Criminal Law, Including But Not Limited To:
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Drug Possession
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Advice On Coverage

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Contract Disputes
Bad Check Claims
Collection Matters
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