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Is my attorney required to respond to my emails?

Sharpsburg, GA |
Filed under: Professional ethics

I've sent my attorney two emails over the past several weeks requesting an update on my case and he's not responding. My phone isn't working properly right now so email is my only means of communication unless I use my husband's cell phone, and he's at work most of the day. I called my attorney from my husband's phone, gave him my husband's phone number, and asked that he call me back or email me. Still no response. I've worked with attorneys in the past and they always responded to their clients' emails with no problems. I get the impression that he's uncomfortable communicating with me by email. Is there anything dictating proper etiquette for communications between attorneys and their clients? Are you allowed to ignore client emails without cause?

Attorney Answers 3

  1. Some attorneys do not like email. However it is INEXCUSABLE for a lawyer not to respond in several weeks to calls and emails. Make one more phone call to the lawyer and advise him that you will have to file a state bar complaint if you don't receive a response. Give him a generous 72 hours. And then contact the state bar to file your complaint (which must be written).

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  2. This is one instance where snail mail letters are an ideal, effective and inexpensive method of seeking communications and documenting attempt at communications. Use trackable mail such as USPS Priority Mail (more subtle) or if you want to put a finer point on it, Certified Mail, Return Receipt requested (someone has to sign for the delivery and you get the green return card as proof).

    Asking for a face to face meeting at the lawyer's earliest convenience is also effective.

    In this modern world, unfortunately, emails and telephone calls, voice mails, and message slips can be ignored or overlooked when attorneys are busy and the lack of response may be unintentional, although still not in conformance with ethical, contractual and professional obligations.

    But in this day and age, written letters tend to be noticed even more than in the past because of their rarity and the effort to put something on paper and find a postage stamp rather than pressing the return key on a computer or smartphone.

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  3. An attorney is required to communicate with their client. See Georgia Rules of Professional Conduct, R. 1.4. You're not supposed to ignore client communications "without cause," although what constitutes "ignoring" may be up for debate. You may want to make sure you've got the right e-mail address. Or that your spam folder isn't catching/flagging your attorney's responses to you. If it really is a total failure to communicate, you're well within your rights to terminate the attorney-client relationship. But, that said, there may be a justifiable reason for the apparent lack of communication... I'd at least pay an in person visit to the office to see what's up.

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