Understanding the Attorney-Client Relationship

Attorney-client relationships are comparable to the relationship between a doctor and his patient; both are regulated by law, and upheld by sound moral and legal codes. Although the laws that govern attorney-client relationships vary by state, most of the provisions are universally accepted.

An attorney-client relationship is based on the fact that the client is able to depend on his or her attorney to protect his or her interests. This means that anything said in confidence with an attorney and any interest of the client is protected above all other things. Although this has been the bane of law enforcement personnel, it is essential to the justice system.

Attorney-Client Relationship: Duty of Undivided Loyalty

This is a somewhat complicated body of law, but essentially means that an attorney cannot take on a client whose interests compromise that of another. For example, let’s say that you’ve hired an attorney to represent you in a civil suit against a company for breaching your First Amendment rights to free speech. Your attorney cannot then take another client whose cause is for censorship, unless the context of that second case have absolutely nothing to do with your own.

The other half of Undivided Loyalty is the duty not to advance one’s own interests ahead of one’s client. In other words, an attorney cannot use a case to further his own agenda at the expense of his client’s case.

In some cases, the Duty of Undivided Loyalty applies to both current and previous clients, while sometimes it applies only to current clients.

Attorney-Client Relationship: Duty to Maintain Confidences

This means that an attorney must protect a client’s confidential information from the point at which it is disclosed. This protection extends beyond the term of representation, which means that the attorney cannot disclose confidential information even after the case of representation has ended. Confidential information can encompass many different things, and all are protected.

Attorney-Client Relationship: Duty to Exercise Reasonable Care

This part of the attorney-client relationship is somewhat subjective. It means that the attorney must behave in a manner consistent with what is expected of him or her at all times. This could include a trial, the gathering of evidence, the research involved in defending or instigating legal action, and many other things.

If a client feels that his or her attorney has failed in this regard, he or she could pursue a different avenue of representation.

Attorney-Client Relationship: Duty to Inform

And lastly, an attorney has an obligation to keep his or her client(s) informed about any information regarding representation. Clients have a right to request such information, and the attorney must provide it within a reasonable amount of time. This could include advancements in a criminal trial, evidence in a civil trial, billing or payment information, or a host of other obligations of the attorney-client relationship.

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