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Duties Owed in the Attorney-Client Relationship

By: Amy Agnew

In Texas, attorneys are governed by ethical rules regarding their conduct.  The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, along with the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure, govern the attorney discipline system in the State of Texas.

The Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct or Ethics Rules outline the proper conduct of an attorney.  Section I of the Ethics Rules focuses specifically on the Lawyer-Client Relationship.  Often times, grievances are filed based on the rules outlined in Section I, and the most predominant ones concern neglect of a case or communication.

Rule 1.01. Competent and Diligent Representation

(a) A lawyer shall not accept or continue employment in a legal matter which the lawyer knows or should know is beyond the lawyer’s competence, unless:

            (1) another lawyer who is competent to handle the matter is, with the prior informed                          consent of the client, associated in the matter, or

            (2) the advice or assistance of the lawyer is reasonably required in an emergency and the                     lawyer limits the advice and assistance to that which is reasonably necessary in the                             circumstances. 

(b) in representing a client, a lawyer shall not:

            (1) neglect a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer, or

            (2) frequently fail to carry out completely the obligations that the lawyer owes to the                          client or clients. 

(c)  As used in this Rule, “neglect” signifies inattentiveness involving a conscious disregard for            the responsibilities owed to a client or clients. 

Basically, do not ignore your client’s case.  Be the zealous advocate on behalf of your client.  A lawyer needs to act with competence and dedication on behalf of his or her client.  Often, a neglect assertion in a grievance can be resolved by showing everything that was done by the lawyer in a particular case.  Every lawyer should have a record of everything that was done in a case including pleadings drafted and filed, discovery drafted and also answered, research conducted, and attendance at hearings and/or trials.

Rule 1.03. Communication

(a) a lawyer shall keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter and promptly comply with reasonable requests for information.

(b) a lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation. 

Communication is key and such an important tenet in the attorney-client relationship.  An attorney has the duty to effectively communicate with his or her client and also to keep his or her client adequately informed as to what is going on in this case.   Do not ignore your client.  Talk to them and answer any concerns or questions that they may have regarding the case.   Communication can take various forms such as phone calls, meetings, e-mails, faxes and letters.  Again, there should be a record of such communications.