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Attorney / Client angst
Old 12-21-2010, 05:51 PM   #1
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Attorney / Client angst

I haven't put too many personal issues out in this forum. That said, my family is going through a legal issue right now and we are having problems with the attorney we've hired.

I'm not asking for any legal advice and won't consider any postings/responses as such (so disclaimers are unnecessary). If you understand attorney thinking and can offer an opinion, please do.

So... this is the problem....

Our attorney took a retainer, represented us in court, and created a pretty good outcome. So far.... so good. All that's left to do is collect notarized signatures and file paperwork with the court. That would wrap up the case.

Well, we've tried to contact her (left a couple voicemails and emails) asking for a status update. We've been ignored. We've been trying to reach her for a couple weeks now. It feels like she's avoiding us.

The court deadline to return the paperwork is just a couple days away and we're stressing out because she hasn't responded to us.

We wonder if an attorney can just stop working on a case without formal notification to the client? We've not been contacted, nor have we received any type of billing statement with fee information. We also have not been asked for any more $$$ - in case her fees have exceeded the initial retainer.

I'm also concerned about who get's in trouble with the court if the paperwork is not filed by the deadline. I don't know if I'm responsible (since it's my case) or if my attorney is ultimately on the hook.


Ultimately I may have to file a complaint with the state bar. I really don't want to do that... I just want my case completed.

Jeez, we hate being so stressed out, especially around the holidays. We've never needed to hire an attorney before. This experience is not creating a bunch of warm and fuzzy feelings.

I'm waiting out the filing deadline and hope she wraps up the case on time. If it doesn't happen, I'm considering going to her law office to try and get an impromptu meeting. Could she avoid me if I'm sitting in her waiting room? I would never run my own business like this.

Any suggestions/opinions are welcome.
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Old 12-21-2010, 05:53 PM   #2
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Weird. If she isn't a solo you should contact someone else at the firm. Call and ask who is the managing partner.
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Old 12-21-2010, 07:03 PM   #3
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I agree with Martha....unless she got into an accident and is in the hospital?
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Old 12-21-2010, 07:37 PM   #4
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Maybe she's dead?
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:12 PM   #5
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Let's hope she's the kind of person who gets the work done (already has the papers filed, for example) but isn't good on the paperwork behind it (progress reports to the client, for example).
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Old 12-21-2010, 08:38 PM   #6
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You might check with the court to see if the papers have been filed. In my state, case dockets are online and you can check on the filings. You are right to be concerned that you may be negatively affected by your attorney's lack of diligence. If you can't contact your attorney and the papers have not yet been filed, I would not let the deadline go by without filing something , even if it is only a pleading saying you have been unable to contact your attorney. You are always permitted to file things on your own behalf. Contact the clerk's office at the court house and they may be able to better advise you. And also do as Martha suggests and contact the managing partner of her firm.

P.S. --- If it makes you feel any better, virtually all lawyers are notorious for waiting until the last possible minute to file pleadings.
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Old 12-21-2010, 09:08 PM   #7
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I don't know if they can stop working on a case without notifying you, but I'd be surprised if they can stop working on a case without notifying the court. In my divorce case, the attorney filed a notice of appearance with the court when she first started representing me, and she also filed a notice of withdrawal with the court when she stopped (she was very good and very expensive and I chose to go pro se near the end of a routine modification action).

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Old 12-21-2010, 09:33 PM   #8
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See if you can talk with her assistant/secretary - explain the situation and ask that the assistant/secretary get back to you. Msot take client service very seriously and know how to make things happen.

Alternatively, like others have suggested, ask to speak to the head of her department or the head of the firm. She probably won't like it but she somewhat deserves it for ignoring you.
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Old 12-21-2010, 09:55 PM   #9
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In the medical profession, the concept of abandonment is taken very seriously should harm occur as a result.

I suspect she will surface as soon as you make a fuss. Or, she had some kind of emergency.
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Old 12-21-2010, 11:06 PM   #10
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Does she have a secretary or partner?
How about stopping by the office?
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Old 12-22-2010, 09:24 AM   #11
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If failure to file could cost you a settlement or something I would be very worried. I would expect that you are on the hook. You could sue the attorney for malpractice to try to get your loss compensated but that is no fun.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:43 AM   #12
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I forgot to mention that this attorney seems to have good credentials. According to the state bar, she's not had any disciplinary actions against her and she been in business for over 20 years.

This attorney practices solo. The reception person who answers the phone only seems to have the capability to route calls. I'm not sure she is much of a help.

Thanks for the suggestions you've offered. I'm going to follow up on some of them.
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Old 12-22-2010, 10:46 AM   #13
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If she has someone answering the phone, go into the office and speak to them directly. You may get some of your questions answered that way. Good luck.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:41 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Life_is_Good View Post

....
Our attorney took a retainer, represented us in court, and created a pretty good outcome. So far.... so good. All that's left to do is collect notarized signatures and file paperwork with the court. That would wrap up the case.
....
Any suggestions/opinions are welcome.
Have you signed off on the the papers? If not, you could call the office and say, “I’d like to come in and sign off on, say, Thursday." You don’t say what kind of case it is but there might be a delay on the other side, if there is another side. For instance, in a divorce case, a client may go into a deep depression upon receiving the papers and the attorney’s office may be reluctant to push it; but in any case they would, or ought to, relay that information to all attorneys and parties. Sometimes papers can be made effective to an earlier date.

I am not an attorney.
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:48 AM   #15
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I had a problem like this once, and I contacted the Bar Association which happened to be Chicago's at that time. Boy! Did they ever jump on the attorney pronto. Try that one. (The paperwork was done within a couple days, too, as that is the time the Bar Assn. gave the attorney to get it back to me signed.)
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Old 12-22-2010, 11:58 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Orchidflower View Post
I had a problem like this once, and I contacted the Bar Association which happened to be Chicago's at that time. Boy! Did they ever jump on the attorney pronto. Try that one. (The paperwork was done within a couple days, too, as that is the time the Bar Assn. gave the attorney to get it back to me signed.)
Presently I am an heir to an estate that is not likely to amount to much, in a state 2000 miles away. I am not the ad. assistant, but I am more reliable than she is or any of the other heirs are.

Occasionally I call for an update- if I call in the am, he has never failed to return my call by the end of his work day. The guy is organized and effective and realistic. His dad was governor of the state back in the day.

OTOH, early in our marriage my wife was injured and hired an attorney to seek damages. The guy was a bad alcoholic, and everything he did was off-beat. He was two-stepping to a waltz. It was an awful experience.
So things can vary from extremely good to mediocre to really poor, though DWs case did not go that low.

Ha
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Old 12-22-2010, 01:59 PM   #17
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Update:

We finally received an email from her this afternoon. It started out...

"sorry I've been swamped......"

but she is apparently still working the case. She will get an extension with the court if necessary. The other party will probably resist the "agreement."

I'd like to say I learned a lot of useful information from all of your posts. Thanks to everyone.

Regards,
Life_is_Good (again)
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:00 PM   #18
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Glad to hear you got a satisfactory response.
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Old 12-22-2010, 02:02 PM   #19
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Glad it only took you one day to get back to us...

Happy to hear that she's back on track.
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