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If I file a grievance against my attorney with the district ethics committee, is he still obliged to represent me ?

Verona, NJ |

I am in the middle of a nasty custody/divorce case. Communication with my lawyer has become impossible. His average response time (if he actually gives an answer) is two to three weeks. My case is stalled because of his attitude and I am suffering the consequences of this. I have tried to resolve the issues with him but that was unsuccessful. I do not have the money to get another lawyer and he needs Court Approval to drop my case, we are kind of stuck with each other and I believe he is taking advantage of that. I do not know how to get out of this mess, please help !

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Attorney answers 3

Posted

I am not licensed in your state, but you should be looking for and find another attorney and file your grievance later. Take care of you first. Even if you can force your attorney to protect your interests while you do this, clearly the trust and confidence between you has been eroded.

Posted

An attorney is not hostage to any client or matter. No client should try to hold an attorney hostage, even when there are sound financial problems that might make replacement counsel difficult. If you file a formal grievance against your attorney, realistically your attorney can no longer represent you to the degree of skill and care that you require. If the relationship can be salvaged, fine. If you must make a formal complaint, you must replace the complained of attorney. For both your sake and the lawyer's.

No legal advice here. READ THIS BEFORE you contact me! My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as if they were legal advice. I give legal advice ONLY in the course of a formal attorney-client relationship. Exchange of information through Avvo's Questions forum does not establish an attorney-client relationship with me. That relationship is established only by joint execution of a written agreement for legal services. My law firm does not provide free consultations. Please do not call or write to me with a “few questions” that require me to analyze the specific facts of your history and your license application and prescribe for you how to get a State license. Send me an email to schedule a paid Consultation for that kind of information, direction, and assistance. My law firm presently accepts cases involving State and federal licenses and permits; discipline against State and federal licenses; and disciplinary and academic challenges to universities, colleges, boarding schools, and private schools. We take cases of wrongful termination or employment discrimination only if the claims involve peace officers, universities or colleges.

Posted

You are not stuck with an attorney and an attorney is not stuck with a client. If you can't afford a new attorney, then presumably you can't afford your current attorney. Attorneys are not required to work for free - that alone would often allow a court to let him end the representation.

Further, as soon as you file a grievance against him, that would also suffice as a reason to end the representation, which a court would grant.

That said, an attorney has an obligation to keep a client informed and to respond timely.

Each case is fact senstive, so all answers should be viewed as general advice only, and should never replace a thorough and in depth consultation with an experienced attorney. Further, an answer should not be seen as establishing an attorney-client relationship.

Asker

Posted

Problem is that the attorney has depleted my money. He has been paid but no work has been done. I have requested itemized billing to understand what he has been doing but I have now been waiting for over two months. Is this normal ?

Michael David Lindner Jr

Michael David Lindner Jr

Posted

every attorney handles billing differently, there are no hard and fast rules, but billing a client on a monthly basis would be typical. Also, it doesn't make sense that he has been paid but no work has been done - most attorneys will request a retainer up front, often substantial, and that gets deposited into a client-trust account. The attorney cannot spend it, or have any right to it. Then as work is completed, the attorney will generate a bill to the client, and indicate how much money the attorney will transfer from that client-trust account into the attorney's general account, at which point the money is the attorney's. That is a general answer, to know for certain I would have to see the fee agreement signed by you.

Asker

Posted

That is exactly what I am having an issue with. I paid a 20k retainer for my divorce. We are negotiating a settlement and after two months the retainer is depleted. He has sent me two bills where all charges are vague and bundled together, with a lot of research and conferencing (not with me but within the lawfirm) that quite frankly I have difficulty in understanding. I have requested explanations many times (on the phone, via email and with a letter) but no answer. Now he is basically not doing anything in my case (just forwarding correspondence from adv. and forwarding back my comments), he is not providing any advice, not answering any question and keeps billing time that is not comprehensible to me. As a way of example, is it ok to charge 9 hours work for reviewing client email, conferencing with a partner and phone call to client ? He did not spend 9 hours on the phone with me, he did not spend 9 hours to review my three lines email (by the way he never replied) and he did not spend 9 hours conferencing on my case. What should I do ? I do not have the money for another retainer and he has been playing with me ! As for the retainer money, it might be on client-trust account, but once you paid it ... there is no way you get it back.

Michael David Lindner Jr

Michael David Lindner Jr

Posted

AVVO has a restriction about using this site to solicit work. At the same time, clearly the attorneys providing information on this site do so with the goal of getting new clients. So to accomplish that goal, we strive to provide competent, thorough and accurate answers, thereby giving us a chance to demonstrate to potential clients our level of expertise, which might (indirectly) make other clients (or the person who posted the original question) contact us for assistance. Once general answers are provided, it then falls back to the potential client as to whether to contact the attorneys directly for more fact specific and detailed answers, and establish an attorney-client relationship. You are at that point now – the next step would be to make that decision, contact an attorney for second opinion, and then most likely, email your bill from your current attorney to the second opinion attorney for review. All of the AVVO attorneys on this site have their contact information, including email contact, available for direct communication.

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