An attorney has a number of professional duties, not only to clients but also to other legal counsel and the court.
Not following these duties can result in numerous legal consequences, including an unsuccessful outcome for a client. If you are a client and think your attorney was negligent or committed another breach of duty, it may help if you understand what the duties of an attorney are.
Duties to other legal professionals
According to the American Bar Association, an attorney is responsible to act in a certain way toward legal counsel and the court. Some of the duties include:
- Will treat other counsel, witnesses and parties with respect and in fair consideration
- Will adhere to agreements and promises with opposing counsel
- Will not use discovery as a form of harassment
- Will take depositions only when necessary
- Will be punctual to court and be considerate of time constraints
- Will not bring disorder, or allow clients to bring disorder, to the court
Duties to the client
According to Chron, an attorney has a variety of fiduciary duties to the client. Confidentiality and attorney-client privilege are important ones. When an attorney takes on a client, the lawyer must professionally and ethically protect the private information of the client. Client-attorney privilege means that, unless ordered by the judge, the attorney may not divulge information discussed with the client.
Another important duty relates to client care. This means acting in the client’s best interest, working carefully to avoid mistakes, being loyal to the client and devoting the necessary time to the case. There is also a financial duty to the client. An attorney may not charge fees for time not spent on the case, and the fees must be reasonable.
Some examples of a breach of duty include if an attorney frequently missed deadlines, fraudulently charged a client or did not perform due diligence in preparing the client’s case. If there is a proven breach of duty, the attorney may owe the client damage compensation and, potentially, punitive damages.