Client Rights and Responsibilities

The list of client rights below is intended to provide guidance to a prospective consumer of legal services as he or she enters into a relationship with a lawyer. It is NOT an official list of the North Carolina State Bar and is NOT enforced by the State Bar. Rather, it reflects what a client should expect from his or her lawyer in light of the lawyer's ethical obligations under the Rules of Professional Conduct.

A client is entitled to the following from his or her lawyer:

1. Competent and diligent representation

2. Communication about

  • How the lawyer will bill the client for services and expenses
      • Lawyers are not required to have written fee agreements unless payment of the fee is contingent upon the outcome of the claim or case. However, written fee agreements are recommended and help to prevent misunderstandings about when payment is due and the amount owed. If a lawyer does not give you a written fee agreement, ask for one. If you do not understand the agreement, ask that it be explained. If the explanation sounds different from the written agreement, ask that the written agreement be revised to reflect your verbal understanding with the lawyer.
    • The scope of the work that will be performed by the lawyer
    • The progress of the client's matter
    • Decisions that the client must make including:
      • Settlement of a claim or lawsuit
      • Dismissal of a lawsuit
      • In a criminal case, what to pled, whether to waive a jury trial, and whether to testify

3. Honesty—a lawyer may not engage in illegal conduct and may not counsel or assist a client in conduct that is criminal or fraudulent

4. Candid, realistic advice that takes into account the client's personal and financial situation

5. Fees that are not clearly excessive

6. Protection of confidential client information from unauthorized disclosure

7. Loyalty—which means avoiding conflicts between the interests

    • Of different clients
    • Of a present and a former client
    • The lawyer's personal interests and the client's interests

8. When the representation ends

    • The client's file not including the lawyer's personal notes or incomplete work—the lawyer may keep a copy of the file for the lawyer's records
    • Any unearned legal fees paid in advance

In the client-lawyer relationship, the client is responsible for the following:

1. Paying the lawyer's fee in accordance with the fee agreement

2. Keeping the lawyer informed of the client's contact information (phone number, address, email address, etc.)

3. Keeping the lawyer informed of important developments that may effect the client's matter

4. A full and honest explanation of the client's legal problem—if you are not honest, the lawyer's efforts to help you will be frustrated

5. Requesting an explanation from the lawyer if the client is dissatisfied or disappointed with a development in the representation

6. Making reasonable requests for information but not unduly burdening the lawyer with phone calls or requests

    • It is reasonable to ask the lawyer for an explanation when you do not understand or are confused by developments in your matter. It is unreasonable to expect a daily progress report.
    • Arrange a convenient way for the lawyer to update you on developments in your matter. For example, the lawyer may agree that a legal assistant in the law office will call or write to you on a regular basis.

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