What Are the Attorney’s Duties in an Attorney-Client Relationship?

May 26, 2021

If you’ve watched any true-crime TV show or any trial that has been shown through any form of media, you may have heard of the attorney-client privilege. But what is it? An attorney-client relationship is a relationship that is formed when a lawyer agrees to perform legal services for a client in exchange for some type of payment. For questions about any aspect of the attorney-client relationship, contact a Doylestown accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis today.

What Duties Do Attorneys Have?

Clients often wonder exactly what the lawyer they’ve hired is responsible for handling. For example, does my agreement cover any appeals that should be filed if I lose my case? 

The establishment of the attorney-client relationship imposes certain duties on the attorney under the rules of professional responsibility. Two of the most basic duties are:

  1. The Duty of Competent Representation. Attorneys must use their legal knowledge, skill, and preparation in handling your matter thoroughly, or at least be able to gain the knowledge necessary to handle your matter. For example, if you believe your grandmother is being mistreated in a nursing home, and you bring that issue to an attorney, they can’t accept the matter unless they already understand elder law or at least can learn elder law very quickly.
  2. The Duty of Diligent Advocacy. Attorneys must act with reasonable promptness and diligence. In other words, attorneys must handle your matter reasonably quickly, and thoroughly, rather than ignoring your questions and concerns and putting your matter off because, for example, they are handling another matter that will make them more money.

Who Makes the Decisions in an Attorney-Client Relationship?

Lawyers are agents of their clients. Therefore, when a lawyer is acting on the client’s behalf, the client is bound by the lawyer’s decisions, as well as their actions or failures to act. Consequently, it is important that there is a clear understanding regarding which decisions are made by the client and which decisions a lawyer can make unilaterally.

Generally speaking, by default, the client has the responsibility to make decisions about the objectives of the legal matter. Additionally, the client has the final say in how the matter is resolved. 

The client generally controls the objectives of a matter, unless doing so would be a violation of the legal rules of professional conduct, and commonly, the general standards of professional courtesy.

The lawyer is generally responsible for deciding the means used to achieve the client’s objectives. As such, legal strategy and decisions are within the conduct allowed by the lawyer. However, the lawyer has a duty to consult with the client about the legal strategies and decisions and to provide information regarding the risks involved and any potential alternative strategies and decisions that may be available.

In real life, the cooperation between the lawyer and the client is critical because the process almost always comes down to the same type of back-and-forth decision-making process: 

  • Clients provide the facts, 
  • Attorneys analyze the facts in light of the applicable law,
  • Attorneys offer clients a number of potential strategies, including the advantages and disadvantages of each, 
  • Attorneys explain their recommended choice and the reasons behind it, and
  • The client makes the final decision.

A Doylestown Accident Lawyer Will Help Explain the Best Options for Your Legal Matter 

A large part of what separates a Doylestown accident lawyer at Drake, Hileman & Davis from other law firms is their value of the attorney-client relationship. We strive to create an amicable, mutually beneficial, and effective team with our clients. Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting the bad guys.

Contact a Doylestown accident attorney at Drake, Hileman & Davis for all of your legal needs. We offer a free consultation.