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Is my attorney required to respond to my emails?

Sharpsburg, GA |

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?

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Filed under: Professional ethics
Attorney answers 3

Posted

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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Asker

Posted

Thank you for answering my question, Mr. Ashman. Yours is one of the only helpful answers that I've received so far that directly addresses my issue and gives me a solution in the event that my attorney continues to ignore my communications. I am truly grateful.

Posted

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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Asker

Posted

This is excellent advise, Mr. Lebowitz. I have worked for attorneys and other professionals in the past and they always responded to their clients' emails in a prompt and professional manner. Most modern professionals are comfortable with emailing with their clients about general questions, so I'm not sure why this is a problem with my attorney. After all, I'm only following up on what was discussed in our last telephone conversation. I will take your advise and follow up with him by certified mail. My concern about only meeting with him in person is that he's not reliable or consistent in his oral communications to me, so I would like to have some things in writing. Thank you again for your suggestion.

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Posted

Another point: Some attorneys, especially those of a certain age who started practice in a time of lots of secretaries to transcribe their dictation tapes and scribblings on yellow legal pads, aren't comfortable with computers, keyboards or email. It's not so much that they aren't trying to leave electronic breadcrumbs as much as email and text messaging is something their kids do, not them. A lot of them are "telephone guys", but when things get busy, the triage they do with their pink "While You Were Out" slips leaves everything but the brushfires and imminent court appearances in the "mañana" pile at the bottom of the stack.

Bret Stuart Moore

Bret Stuart Moore

Posted

Just wanted to add, if he's not "reliable or consistent in his oral communications," I'd suggest you get another lawyer.

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Jack Richard Lebowitz

Posted

Absolutely, Mr. Moore. It doesn't matter by which means the attorney communicates, but that he tries to communicate. Unreturned phone calls are one of the biggest sources of client complaints and state bar disciplinary actions. I know from personal experience that emails are easier to miss or go into your spam filters than phone calls where the voice mails or pink message slips are harder to ignore, especially when they pile up. Unfortunately, many attorneys don't empathize with their client's needs for reassurance and only think they have to make/return a call when there's a major status update in someone's case to report.

Posted

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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