They say that lawyers can’t be trusted. It needn’t be generalized. But it is true to an extent. Having trust and faith is integral to a good lawyer-client bond. That is what keeps them together including the legal proceedings and the intricate details of the case. Only when one trusts his or her lawyer, can they share the real details they ask for. When the trust becomes an obstacle, things begin to turn around. Things may turn South if you see signs that your attorney is selling you out. So, how to know if your lawyer is selling you out?
Having these thoughts, and noticing such signs may not be coincidental if they’re happening too often. After all, their swearing and promises may not be always binding. This is not just the case with lawyers or law as such.
In any field or everyday life, we can observe a thin line of morality or ethics that people could cross often. Such is the world. Ultimately it is an individual choice. But that doesn’t mean that you can ignore the red flags. Once it begins to affect you, you cannot overlook it.
After all, they work for you and are paid for. In this article, we can delve into different clues or hints of whether your attorney is selling you out and what to do next if they are.
1. Trust is the Key
There is a level of trust in any human relationship, be it formal or informal. A bond with lawyers may lie somewhere in between. They might be the closest strangers one can have. One can confide in them, sharing all personal details and tales that could eventually make or break the case. This is an easy answer for how to know if your lawyer is selling you out.
The information shared could range from personal affairs, business relations, or financial details. So, their trust and bond will determine how the case will proceed. When that is compromised, there would be different ramifications.
Getting the right attorney to an extent would take effort on your part as well. Even if one is prepared to be cautious, awaiting all possibilities, one can’t always predict the outcomes. When a lawyer sells out a client, it is a breach of trust, their principles are violated, and the outcomes could be destructive.
It is not that easy to just fire them and move on especially if all the inside scoop of the case is spilt. They could be forced to settle the case withdraw it or adhere to the demands of the opposite council. Handling such situations can be tricky but not impossible.
As you read, you can equip yourself with some awareness and skills necessary, to recognize the red flags and learn damage control. Knowledge is power, so being aware of getting sold out would be your wild card to victory.
2. A Lawyer’s Obligation and Loyalty
A lawyer’s foundation is made of the values of trust and loyalty. If it is proved once that he or she cannot be relied on nor confided in, no clients would go again. It is bad for their business as well. However, from a client’s perspective, this could be devastating. It is when someone who works for you has availed all benefits and ratted you out. There are a lot of things that could go wrong with this.
An attorney must protect the confidentiality and fight for their cause or plead their case with due diligence. Acting otherwise would also become grounds for disciplinary action.
3. Attorney-Client Privilege
This is a legal principle that reassures the communication between lawyers and clients remains confidential. This is what enables clients to be open with their lawyers about their cases. Unless the client feels safe to share their knowledge, the case cannot proceed. Lawyers cannot force information out of clients without consent. So breaking this is a serious violation of their professional code of conduct.
This is an obvious tip on how to know if your lawyer is selling you out. Lawyers are usually bound by strict codes of conduct according to national policies. They state the duties and responsibilities of a lawyer. They are often enacted by national or state bar associations. It makes them act diligently, and earnestly, and uphold their integrity.
They must uphold the law and not perform any actions that could potentially risk the client’s safety. Doing so is wrong on many levels. The rules and ethical codes are binding and that keeps them competent.
4. How to Know if Your Lawyer is Selling You Out- Signs to Watch Out For
Here are a few red flags or warning signs you cannot ignore if they happen more than once.
4.1) Change in Behaviour/Attitude
This might be the most obvious thing that could get noticed. A behaviour change could mean many things. One could be that the lawyer isn’t on your side anymore. What a lawyer perceives of the case personally doesn’t matter. What matters is when the lawyer lets it get in the way of work. This could start with missing due dates, deadlines, and appointments.
A lawyer’s incompetence would reflect negligence. If your lawyer consistently misses deadlines, then there is something off. No experienced attorney would do that.
What one has to be wary of, whether it is just blatant ignorance or something else going on. If the lawyer is constantly unprepared, doesn’t do the needful, and bails out on meetings, then it is time you may have to reconsider the choice of your legal representative.
4.2) Poor Communication
Good communication skills are integral to a lawyer’s reputation. Once trust is built, communication happens. Keeping up with communication is an effective way to build a strong lawyer-client bond. If your attorney is unavailable or not responding to phone calls or emails, these could be something to watch out for. If they are not updating you on the case or are not taking any initiative, better be wary.
Of course, they can be busy but they are obligated to keep clients informed of the case.
The client has every right to be aware of their legal proceedings so it is up to the lawyer to ensure it is best handled. A lawyer’s behavior to an extent is predictable. If they do not update you promptly, you cannot let it slide.
4.3) Unusual Financial Charges
Lawyers must be transparent in their use of financial resources. They must maintain a regular account which could be checked anytime for references or explanations. If you observe any unexpected or unexplained charges or fees, you might need to watch out. It could indicate their unethical behavior. Always ask for an explanation and bills or any evidence of any costs charged to you. The money is yours and you have the right to be aware of how and where it is used.
4.4) Rushing the Case
A client’s best interests are the ultimate. What they want is the priority. However, if the lawyer is in a hurry to wrap up the case, and is constantly pushing the settlement clauses on you, putting indirect pressure on you to settle, they may not be the right fit for you. Of course, it needn’t necessarily mean that they are selling you out, but they aren’t signs that could be ignored.
4.5) Disclosing Confidential Information
This might be the biggest red flag so far. To the answer of how to know if your lawyer is selling you out, this might be the most important. A lawyer is expected to keep all information private. If they ignore that, despite knowing the repercussions proceed to leak them, you need to act up. It is a serious breach of loyalty, trust, and professional conduct. Such mistakes cannot be overlooked.
And if the lawyer can do this once, they can do it again. However, the state bar association has provisions for such unprofessional conduct. We will go through them below.
5. What Does These Signs Imply?
5.1) What a Breach of Confidentiality Means
A client’s privacy and protection does not extend to ethical grounds alone. It is a clear violation of your fundamental and constitutional right- Right to Privacy. If such information is shared with other people without an explanation, peers or family members, or selling it for monetary gains to the opposing counsel, they are serious violations.
It will affect the case and their career if caught in the act. Lawyers wouldn’t be easy to catch as they could exploit existing loopholes. So one must tackle it smartly to protect their best interests.
5.2) Why Being Unpunctual Shouldn’t be Ignored?
This might seem a bit trivial compared to all the other signs. But this matters for many reasons. Lawyers are bound legally and professionally to follow a protocol and procedure with their case. They must adhere to the deadlines and must keep their clients well-informed of the same. Missing out on court dates, and appointments would have serious consequences.
Being constantly lethargic indicates ignorance or less dedication to the client. It is wrong ethically and leaves a negative mark on the lawyer’s competence. This could lead to financial penalties and unfavorable hearings.
5.3) Why is Poor Communication a Red Flag?
This could include delayed responses or no responses, no replies to emails, not answering calls, giving you no updates, or giving vague reasonings. It is equal to keeping you in the dark throughout. This is serious as ineffective communication can hamper the case, get you stressed and anxious, and grow an element of distrust between you and your lawyer. This could be a multi factorial answer to how to know if your lawyer is selling you out.
You must be kept well-informed and updated about any details about the case. It is the client’s basic right. This would enable you to make decisions as you are informed from time to time. Missing out on this would mean something is off.
5.4) What Does Rushing a Case Imply?
If your lawyer is pushing for a quick settlement or a deal and is going against your best interests, chances are they are not acting in your best interests. If they consistently recommend settling, it could mean a lot of things. They might have a different priority, monetary or something else. They might not be showing their full earnestness to the job. Doing so could derail getting the justice you deserve. It could slim your chances of getting a favourable judgment. Only with time can one explore different options and aspects of the case, and tune it to a more favorable one.
It may not be the sole reason, but it cannot be removed from the list of ways, how to know if your lawyer is selling you out.
5.5) Why Shouldn’t You Ignore Financial Irregularities?
This cannot be overlooked at any point. Any financial aspects must be transparent and dealt with sincerely. Any charges paid for without any announcement or reasoning are a cause for concern. Overlooking this one could give a license to do it again.
Also, if you feel that your lawyer is in it for the money, then you might not feel that sense of trust or reliability which could trouble the case. The conflicting interests could deter a favourable proceeding.
6. What Can You Do?
Now that we explored the signs to watch out for, and you have the tips on how to know if your lawyer is selling you out, you need to know what you can do about it.
6.1) Get a Second Opinion
It would always be good or fair to have another opinion. If you feel insecure or uncertain, you can consult another counsel. A second opinion could help you clear your mind and reaffirm where you stand. Some lawyers offer case reviews. If not you can approach one. This could give you deeper and more valuable insights and help you make informed decisions.
Getting the best advice is subjective to the client’s priorities. So if you feel you have ended up with a bad lawyer, who showcases unprofessional behavior, then you have the right to get a better legal representation.
6.2) Have a Written Agreement
Get it on record, get it written. Word of mouth would potentially risk your safety and privacy. Whereas, when you have an agreement signed by both parties, it has officially gone on record and is legally valid. This wouldn’t let the lawyer scoot if found in dubious acts. The agreement could contain fees, what they are appearing for, communication, and confidentiality terms.
In case of any misunderstandings, this can be looked at again. It should be well-read and clarified before going ahead. This would keep the lawyer on their toes and lessen the chances of them acting against your terms.
6.3) Effective Communication
As you are aware that it is your right to be informed about legal proceedings, you must maintain regular communication. It would help you understand that he’s involved sincerely in the case and would help the client-lawyer relationship.
You must ask and be aware of the case’s progress. It is your right to do so. Have an understanding before you go ahead with your communication expectations so there will be no hassles. Even if they don’t return calls, you must be updated with all necessary precautions. And if they act otherwise you could act on it.
6.4) Report Any Violation of Agreement
This needn’t be formal specifically. If you feel your lawyer has acted against you, risking your safety, has sold you out, or leaked any private information, you can report it to the bar association of your state. They would look into the matter and would take some disciplinary action. A lawyer’s loyalty is one of the basic things expected.
Also if the news goes out, it could deter their professional career. They may not attract potential clients. You don’t owe anyone to endure any misdemeanor. You hire the lawyers so if they don’t perform well, you know what to do.
6.5) Remove/ Change Your Counsel
If you reach a point where you are fully convinced that your counsel is unreliable, then you can consider firing them. Getting a new attorney may not be what you wanted. It would be tricky and challenging, but ultimately it is for you and your case. It is not a game to please lawyers. Your intentions and priorities are of paramount importance. So new representation could give you a fresh take.
Be it criminal law or civil law, you have the right to an attorney who would act in your best interest. For any such cases, it is understood that a lawyer is expected to be a comprehensive guide.
You must get a new lawyer if you lose faith in your lawyer. You must inform your lawyer and his law firm in writing, why you are doing so and must have a witness or inform a legal representative. It is also advisable to inform the bar council and follow the legal steps to do so. They could also help you to find a better one who could carry out your needs.
So if your current lawyer is not your best friend, get another one.
We could say that trust is fundamental to a lawyer-client bond. To maintain it healthily, one must be aware of a lawyer’s legal obligations and even their rights. Only when both are exercised properly could there be a balance. Being aware of the signs to be careful of will protect you in the long run.
The logic is simple, when you have paid for someone’s commitment and loyalty to you, and they are falling out, then there is something wrong.
Do a little research about the lawyer’s behaviour, conduct, and cases before you find the ‘right lawyer’. If they have occasions of unprofessional behaviour, try to stay away. There are plenty of other attorneys to choose from. Go through your case file, have an idea of what you’re up against, and then pick your choice. You must have a clear understanding of it. You can also read My Attorney Colluded With the Other Side | 8 Signs and What to Do Now, for further insights on what could be done.
This highlights the need to be diligent and aware in any legal or formal relationships you may have. Just because you hire someone doesn’t mean you can slack off. Although such instances are rare, it is very much possible. You have the right to get what you paid for so speak up if you don’t feel like you are getting enough.[amazon_auto_links id="280559"]