What Can You Expect From Your Lawyer?

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, you should have confidence that he or she will provide competent, diligent representation.

by Rebecca Berlin

If you've never worked with a lawyer before, you may not know what to expect from the Attorney-Client relationship. A lawyer owes certain duties to his or her clients, including a duty to avoid conflicts of interest, a duty of confidentiality, a duty to provide competent representation, and others. But what does this mean to you?

The lawyer's duty to avoid conflicts of interest means that your lawyer cannot represent someone else whose interests are adverse to yours. This doesn't necessarily mean that a lawyer can't represent someone whose business is in competition with yours. If you need a lawyer to draw up articles of incorporation for your bakery it doesn't mean that the lawyer cannot draft articles of incorporation for another bakery or assist another bakery in negotiating a lease. It does mean that if a lawyer is representing you, he or she can't represent someone else whose interests are adverse to yours in that matter. So if the lawyer is helping you negotiate a lease, the lawyer can't represent the other party to that lease or another person who wants the same space. A lawyer can represent two parties who may have adverse interests if both parties are fully informed and consent to the representation. This might happen where two people want to go into business together, but just want to hire one person to draft their partnership agreement. It might seem like their interests are the same – they both want to open a business together. But each individual's own personal concerns could be at odds with the other's.

The lawyer's duty of confidentiality means that anything you talk about with him or her is kept secret. This means that you can feel free to discuss the details of your business with your lawyer without worrying that your competitors or anyone else will hear about it.

The lawyer's duty to provide competent representation means that a lawyer must tell you if he or she does not have the expertise to handle your matter. A lawyer is permitted to take a reasonable amount of time to become familiar with an area of law. But if it is too complex, or if the lawyer doesn't have the time to get up to speed on the matter, then he or she should refer you to an attorney who practices in that particular area.

A lawyer also has a duty to diligently represent the client. The lawyer should vigorously represent the client's point of view. A lawyer can't advise or help a client to do something that is illegal or fraudulent, though. The lawyer also has a duty to keep the client informed of the status of the client's matter.

When you hire a lawyer to represent you, you should have confidence that he or she will provide competent, diligent representation, that he or she will not represent someone whose interests are adverse to yours, and that he or she will keep your confidences and keep you informed of how your matter is proceeding.

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