Lawyer-Client Relationship

Lawyer-Client Relationship in the United States

The interaction between an attorney and his or her client. The law- yer-client relationship is critical because the attorney represents the interests of another person. Clients depend on attorneys to make sound assessments and take appropriate action to safeguard their legal position. The ability of clients to make sure lawyers serve their interests varies. The one-time client, perhaps a criminal defendant, is in the least favorable position. Such a client is likely to have little legal knowledge and is in a poor position to evaluate a lawyer’s performance. In addition, the one-time client does not constitute a substantial part of the lawyer’s income and has little economic leverage. The corporate client, on the other hand, has greater control, especially the client who retains counsel on a long-term basis. Problems stemming from the lawyer-client relationship most often involve an attorney’s competency and ethics. These are matters covered in the performance standards adopted by each state and applicable to every practicing attorney in that state. These standards closely parallel the canons of conduct contained in the American Bar Association’s Code of Professional Responsibility.

See Also

Code of Professional Responsibility (Judicial Personnel issue).

Analysis and Relevance

The lawyer-client relationship directly affects lawyer performance. When clients delegate legal tasks to a lawyer, they expect competent performance. Licensure requirements that include completing law school and passing the bar examination are aimed at producing competent practitioners. Recognition of specialties through certification programs is also in place in many states. Canons of professional ethics also address competency and other representational issues. Lawyers are expected to exercise fully independent professional judgment on behalf of a client, and lawyers are directed to preserve the confidentiality of the attorney-client relationship. Attor- ney-client privilege is a rule of evidence that allows an attorney to refuse to testify about communications with a client. The lawyer-client relationship may also be affected by unethical or dishonest conduct by an attorney. In such a situation, a client may pursue a criminal complaint or bring a malpractice action against the lawyer. A client may also attempt to initiate sanctions available under processes adopted by state supreme courts. Following a hearing, disciplinary action may be taken by the state supreme court.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Lawyer-Client Relationship from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Lawyer-Client Relationship: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Lawyer-Client Relationship. This part provides references, in relation to Lawyer-Client Relationship, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Lawyer-Client Relationship by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Lawyer-Client Relationship and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Lawyer-Client Relationship or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Lawyer-Client Relationship and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Lawyer-Client Relationship. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Lawyer-Client Relationship should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Lawyer-Client Relationship when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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