Understanding the Lawyer-Client Relationship
Most people do not regularly deal with lawyers until they are in need. This article will cover the basics of the lawyer-client relationship, so that you know what to expect when that need arises. When I first meet with my clients, I always explain my role and what they can expect.
Fiduciary Duty to the Client
Lawyers have an overarching duty to perform a legal services undertaken on a client’s behalf to the standard of a competent lawyer. This means a client is entitled to expect your lawyer has the ability and capacity to deal with your legal matters. Lawyers have a fiduciary obligation to their clients and must be honest and candid with the client and act in good faith to advance their client’s best interests.
Similar to the relationship between doctors and patients, lawyers have a duty of confidentiality towards their clients. Lawyers will hold in strict confidence all information concerning the business and affairs of the client and will not divulge any client information unless authorized to do so by the client or required to by law. This duty allows clients to engage in fully honest and unreserved communication with their lawyer and, in turn, allows lawyers to provide the most effective representation for their client, knowing they have all the relevant facts. A lawyer’s duty of confidentiality continues even after the client’s case comes to an end.
In addition to the duty of confidentiality, clients should also be aware of solicitor-client privilege. Solicitor-client privilege means that all written or spoken communication between clients and their lawyers are privileged and cannot be disclosed in the course of litigation or otherwise. The existence of solicitor-client privilege gives clients further assurance that they can be truthful and honest in all communication with their lawyer.
Conflicts of Interest
Another important duty that lawyers have towards their clients is the duty not to act or continue to act for a client where there is a conflict of interest. A conflict of interest exists where there is a substantial risk that a lawyer’s representation of a client would be adversely affected by the lawyer’s own interest or the lawyer’s duties to other clients or third parties. Conflicts of interest can arise when a lawyer is asked to represent a client in a matter where the lawyer has a personal stake in the outcome or where the lawyer is asked to do something unethical such as lie for the client. A conflict could also arise where a lawyer is asked to act against a former client in a matter. The duty to avoid conflicts of interest requires that lawyers refuse to act in these situations, as they would not be able to fulfill their obligations to act in their client’s best interests.
Do you or someone you know need legal representation? We are here to help. Please contact Louis DelSignore today.
This post was written by Lawyer Louis DelSignore and Articling Student Jonathan Bradford.