Every year The American Bar Association (ABA) receives and processes numerous complaints accusing attorneys of unethical practices. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct covers many of the ethical issues relevant to the practice of law. Attorney ethics are under constant review by individual state bars in addition to the national body. Bar Associations' constant effort, vigilance and sanctions against lawyers who violate these ethical guidelines can be supplemented by a clientele aware of the responsibilities owed them by counsel.
Some common issues raised in consumer complaints about attorney ethics involve:
- Overcharging and contingency fees - The ABA model rules state that an attorney may not charge an unconscionable fee for their services. In every community there is an acceptable range of attorney fees, based on the complexity of a specific case, the area of practice, years of experience and reputation of the attorney. It is illegal for an attorney to charge a contingency fee in a divorce case.
- Informed consent - It is your attorney's responsibility to make sure you understand the terms of your professional relationship. An attorney may not misrepresent the services he or she provides, the fee structure, or the potential for a specific outcome. It is also illegal to embellish or exaggerate educational achievements, certification or areas of expertise. Anything you agree to, from payment to the timeline for closing your case, must be in writing.
- Attorney-client privilege - In general, everything you discuss with your attorney is confidential. The success of a case can depend heavily on the level of comfort and trust the attorney elicits in the client. However, there are exceptions to the privilege. If a client intends to commit a criminal act or cause bodily harm to another (such as an ex-spouse), an attorney may be required to disclose confidential information.
Contact one of our experienced, ethical attorneys to talk to them about everything from their fee structure to your family law matter.