What to Do When Your Lawyer Is Ignoring You
You bought a medicine over the counter that didn’t sit well with you. It caused not just mild nausea but severe side effects the pharmaceutical company had failed to mention. The best way, after your recovery, of course, is to take legal recourse. You find an attorney that understands you and is willing to take your case forward. A few meetings are held, you forward whatever evidence you have — bills, medical reports, etc. and are satisfied that justice may finally be done. You wait a week, a month, three months but there’s radio silence.
Why Is Your Lawyer Not Responding?
Don’t immediately jump to the worst conclusion. The following are some of the reasons your lawyer may not be responding to your communications:
There’s Nothing to Report
It’s possible you have no deadlines coming up immediately and the lawyer has nothing to report back. Personal injury and medical malpractice cases have deadlines but they’re not necessarily set back to back. It could be months before you have to submit anything in court again. Perhaps your lawyer is waiting the interim period out and has nothing to report yet. It’s the lawyer’s job to keep you in the loop. In fact, the American Bar Association says the attorney must keep the client “reasonably informed” about the case. However, your definition of “reasonable” may be different from your lawyer’s.
They Don’t Have Time to Talk
Understand that you are not their only client. In between the deadlines for your case, your lawyer is also dealing with other clients. It might seem like they have all the time while not much is happening in your case but nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps you feel your lawyer has all the time in the world to chat but they do have a practice to run just like you may have other things keeping you busy in life.
You Are Not Doing What Is Asked of You
If you’ve hired an attorney, it’s of utmost importance that the two of you work in sync. If the lawyer has asked you to do something or present yourself in a certain way for the sake of the case, trust their judgement. If you don’t agree, clarify, have a discussion and put everything on the table. If you don’t trust your lawyer’s judgement, find someone you can be on the same page with. But if you must continue to employ them and still work against their instructions, perhaps your lawyer has decided to take matters in their own hands and is working on the case without your interference. This is something you should reflect on.
You Are Not the Client
If you are not the client in question but are following up for a friend or a relative, the lawyer doesn’t owe any response to you. The lawyer is working for their client and not for their friends, relatives or well-wishers. The lawyer needs to, and in fact, can only speak to the person who signed the contingency fee agreement. These are the rules of attorney-client privilege and it would bode well for you to respect them too.
There’s Bad News
Now coming to the worst possibility. The news is not good and your lawyer doesn’t know how to break it to you. Perhaps your lawyer is just not great with communication. Maybe he missed a deadline and is embarrassed to confess his faux pas. This is the worst possible scenario, sure, but it happens often enough.
What to Do When Your Lawyer Is Being Unresponsive?
Now coming to the second part of the problem – what do you do when your lawyer has fallen off the grid? Of course, it could be any of the above genuine reasons but a brief email or message to pacify a client should not be so hard.
Threaten to Find Another Lawyer
If your lawyer is taking too long or is not responding to emails, simply chart out your grievances in a concise manner and send a letter to their office. Keep your criticism sharp and to the point, don’t get swayed with emotions. Let the lawyer and their firm know your time is precious too and that you have the capacity to find a different attorney if things don’t work out.
If the lawyer is serious about you as a client, this letter should shake them up and set the wheels in motion again. But before moving further, have an honest discussion with your lawyer about your requirements. Let them know how often you want to be kept in the loop and let them present their case too.
Really Find Another Lawyer
If the lawyer or their firm’s response is not satisfactory and you are still feeling slighted, simply settle whatever payment is due, pick up your files and move on to finding another lawyer. If you and your lawyer can’t see eye to eye, there’s very little chance that lawyer can win you your case.
File a Complaint
Every state has a lawyer discipline agency. In most states, it’s the bar association. If you think the lawyer has been unprofessional, file a complaint. The agency may not take immediate action (they also have a reputation of being slow) but in many cases, they are waiting for a few complaints to come in before taking action. So if your lawyer has a habit of taking their clients for granted, your complaint could trigger action against them before another client has to go through what you did.
Final Thoughts on What to Do If Your Attorney is Ignoring You
Finally, a legal battle is one that needs to be fought as valiantly as any other. It takes a lot of patience, determination and courage to take a legal battle forward. Your lawyer is your army general. If you cannot rely on your general, half the battle has been lost already.
So put all your expectations on the table beforehand when you meet the lawyer so there are no nasty surprises on the battlefield.