Filing a grievance against a lawyer: is yours valid? 1

“You won’t have a lawyer?”
“No, sir.”  Mr. George shook his head in the most emphatic manner.  “I thank you all the same, sir, but– no lawyer!”
    “Why not?”
    “I don’t take kindly to the breed,” said Mr. George. — Charles Dickens, Bleak House

First, I must tell you I never expected to be typing a title using the expression “grievance against your lawyer.”

Lawyers aren’t perfect people, no. But neither are we plaintiffs. And somehow, even with all these imperfections, our cases usually do get handled successfully.

However. I’m having trouble getting my case finished up, never mind “handled” successfully. If you’re in the same situation, feeling aggrieved at your lawyer, go back to the Statement of Client’s Rights I directed you to yesterday (the link to the Unified Court System is under my Sites of Interest). Print it out.

Now here’s my serious dissection of each numbered paragraph, with specific reference to my situation. You’ll want to evaluate your case similarly.

  1. Courtesy and consideration? Here is why I think the Unified Court System should expand upon and better define these rights. What do “courtesy and consideration” mean? To my lawyers, it may mean that they didn’t yell at me, or try to bully me. And no, they didn’t. But they did try to get away with specious explanations for situations I questioned them about. And their explanations were condescending. I consider condescension discourteous.
  2. Did I have an attorney capable of handling my legal matter competently and diligently? I guess I did. Was this “handling” in accordance with the “highest standards of the profession?” To me, no. But I’m a rather unusual plaintiff: I’ve actually worked for lawyers who did actually represent the highest standards of the profession. But what if you haven’t had a lot of experience with lawyers? How can you evaluate them? Not well done, Unified Court System.
  3. “Undivided loyalty uncompromised by conflicts of interest.” Whatever the Unified Court System thinks this means, how can a plaintiff make this determination? I mean, your lawyer isn’t going to be sitting there in front of you, double-dealing on the phone with your defendant. This is another really weakly composed “Right,” not sufficiently elaborated upon to be of much use to a client.
  4. The fee structure. If you’re paying the fee for your case, you can bet you’ll be “entitled” to get an itemized bill on a regular basis. But what about a contingency case, like mine? Although I haven’t requested itemized bills throughout the case, I have been requesting an itemized closing statement for a few months, to no avail.
  5. Here’s the big one for me. My questions and concerns have not been addressed in a prompt manner, nor have my telephone calls been returned promptly. And hey Unified Court System! Lawyers and clients communicate nowadays via e-mail, not telephones. You might want to amend this paragraph.
  6. “Entitled to be kept informed as to the status of your matter and to request and receive copies of papers.” Yes, I am. No, I haven’t been.
  7. Another weakly written item. How many of us haven’t felt disrespected by our attorneys? Sometimes lawyers will get justifiably frustrated with a client and will have to put a foot down. When does this disrespect constitute a valid wrong and when does it constitute nothing more than an aggressive personality? Like, gee, a lawyer’s personality?
  8. How exciting. We have the right to privacy. How would we know if this right has been breached?
  9. Our attorneys must conduct themselves ethically. How do we know if they haven’t?
  10. This one is written strictly as a warning to lawyers: “Oh, and when you reject a client, don’t tell her it’s because you don’t like her race or creed, et cetera.” Could a lawyer be that stupid? Could a client be foolish enough to feel somehow protected against prejudice because it’s Number 10 in her Rights list?

Next: How to file a grievance against a lawyer.



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