Written by Troy Marsh |
Lawyers are communicators. Lawyers communicate with clients, judges, other lawyers, clerks, and other non-lawyers. Every lawyer has a basic ability to communicate, at least in writing, else they wouldn’t have passed the Bar exam. Good communication means prompt communication, thorough communication, relevant communication, succinct communication, and most of all, meaningful communication.
Rule 1.4 of the State Bar of Georgia states that:
a. A lawyer shall:
1. promptly inform the client of any decision or circumstance with respect to which the client’s informed consent, as defined in Rule 1.0(h), is required by these Rules;
2. reasonably consult with the client about the means by which the client’s objectives are to be accomplished;
3. keep the client reasonably informed about the status of the matter;
4. promptly comply with reasonable requests for information; and
5. consult with the client about any relevant limitation on the lawyer’s conduct when the lawyer knows that the client expects assistance not permitted by the Rules of Professional Conduct or other law.
b. A lawyer shall explain a matter to the extent reasonably necessary to permit the client to make informed decisions regarding the representation.
Competence is the ability to do something successfully or efficiently. Competence is the minimum level of skill required of lawyers. A lawyer may be competent in one area of law, like criminal law, but may not be competent in another area, like bankruptcy. Lawyers should know where their competence lies and where it does not, and they should be forthcoming about both.
Rule 1.1 of the State Bar of Georgia states that:
A lawyer shall provide competent representation to a client. Competent representation as used in this Rule means that a lawyer shall not handle a matter which the lawyer knows or should know to be beyond the lawyer’s level of competence without associating another lawyer who the original lawyer reasonably believes to be competent to handle the matter in question. Competence requires the legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness and preparation reasonably necessary for the representation.
To the best of their ability, lawyers should try to “stand in the shoes” of their clients and understand the circumstances that led up to the situation at hand. Good lawyers can find the law, file pleadings, modify forms, give advice, and get a result. Great lawyers not only understand the law, they understand the emotions, the personalities, the relationships, and the needs of the client.
Above all, your lawyer should tell the truth. She should tell you the truth. She should tell the judge the truth. She should tell opposing counsel about the truth. If you discover that your lawyer is not truthful, you should seriously reconsider your decision to allow her to continue representing you.
Your lawyer should work on your case with a sense of urgency. That is not to say that your lawyer should treat all legal matter as emergencies. They are not. However, your lawyer should not allow your case to languish for weeks or months without a good reason.
Rule 1.3 of the State Bar Rules states that:
A lawyer shall act with reasonable diligence and promptness in representing a client. Reasonable diligence as used in this Rule means that a lawyer shall not without just cause to the detriment of the client in effect willfully abandon or willfully disregard a legal matter entrusted to the lawyer. The maximum penalty for a violation of this Rule is disbarment.
Rule 1.6 states, in part, that:
A lawyer shall maintain in confidence all information gained in the professional relationship with a client, including information which the client has requested to be held inviolate or the disclosure of which would be embarrassing or would likely be detrimental to the client, unless the client gives informed consent, except for disclosures that are impliedly authorized in order to carry out the representation, or are required by these Rules or other law, or by order of the Court.