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Client’s Rights

What You Should Know About Your Rights

Attorneys must adhere to a high standard of professional conduct.  This standard gives you as the client certain rights.  These rights include:

1. Confidentiality - You and your attorney have what is called attorney-client privilege.  This means that your attorney, or any member of their staff, cannot communicate most things you say to an outside person. This will apply if you hired the attorney or if you were intending to hire the attorney when you gave the information.  A general exception to this is if you tell your attorney about something that is going to happen that will be illegal when it takes place.

2. Full fee disclosure - When you hire an attorney, you are entering into a contract for their services.  Your attorney must disclose to you all aspects of their fees and what they will be charging you for services. You have the right to question any aspect of billing, and your attorney must explain it to you.

3. The right to know how your case is going - The case is your case and your attorney is working for you to accomplish a goal.  This means that your attorney must communicate with you with regard to your case. They cannot ignore you.  They may not respond to you as quickly as you would like, but they must respond to you within a reasonable time period.  You have a right to be a part of the decision making process for your case.

4. The right to have your money kept separate from the attorney's personal funds - An attorney must safeguard any property or funds that you give to them.  Any money that is paid to your attorney in advance of fees must be placed into a bank account that is separate from your attorney's normal operating account.  Further, your attorney must maintain very strict records of this account and must keep you informed of where your money is.  The Wisconsin State Bar requires that any interest earned on this account be sent to them to be used by a tax-exempt foundation that provides legal services for the indigent.  Your attorney does not keep any of this interest.

5. Courtesy and respect - Your attorney and their staff must treat you with respect and common courtesy. If there is an aspect of your case that you do not understand, they must explain it to you in a considerate manner.

6. The right to know who is working on your case - You may meet with an attorney who doesn't end up handling your case.  Instead, another attorney in the firm may take on your case.  If this happens, you must be informed of the change and approve it.

7. The right to complain - Attorneys in Wisconsin must adhere to the rules of professional conduct established by the State Bar.  You have the right to complain to the Office of Lawyer Regulation if your attorney is not following these rules.



How to Maintain a Good Relationship with Your Attorney

As a client, there are certain things you can do to maintain a good working relationship with your attorney and insure that your case proceeds smoothly.  These include:

1. Be honest - Tell your attorney the truth and tell them everything. Please don't hide any facts from your attorney. As stated above, you have a confidentiality privilege with your attorney so they will not disclose your information to outsiders.  If you fail to disclose everything to your lawyer, it can sometimes seriously hurt your case.  This can happen if the other side knows about the information and your attorney is taken by surprise.  Also, keep your attorney informed of any new developments or changes in your case or personal information.

2. Be on time for meetings and court appearances - Appearing late for court may cause you to make a bad impression on the judge.  Further, your attorney has a schedule to maintain and if you are late, it may affect your attorney's commitments to other clients.

3. Be cooperative with your attorney - When your attorney asks you for information or to contact the office, please do so promptly.  Your attorney is trying to help you by requesting this information or contact, and it will only hurt your case if you delay.

4. Pay your bill on time - As stated earlier, by hiring an attorney, you are entering into a contract with your attorney for their services.  Your attorney deserves to receive payment on time. Failure to make payments may lead to delays in your case.

5. Be courteous to your attorney and their office staff - You hired your attorney because they are a professional and they have experience in handling complex legal issues.  You have the right to disagree with your lawyer; however, please do so in a calm manner and remember that you hired them for their expertise.

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