What if I am unhappy with my attorney or her fees?

If you believe that your attorney is not performing his or her duties, the first step to resolve the problem is to talk with the attorney directly; tell the attorney about your concerns and ask for an appointment to discuss the matter. Often that discussion will clear up your problem.

Many problems between attorneys and clients are the result of poor communication. Both the attorney and the client are responsible for maintaining communication. Attorneys have numerous clients and are often in court or working out of their offices. You will not always be able to immediately reach your attorney. But, your attorney should respond to your telephone messages and letters. Tell your attorney of your need for information and arrange a mutually agreeable time to contact the attorney.

If you are unhappy with the advice your attorney has given you, remember that you employed the attorney to obtain a professional opinion, not just to agree with you. You may, however, want to obtain a second opinion; always inform the second attorney of the purpose of the inquiry.

If you are still dissatisfied after talking with your attorney, you have the right to discharge the attorney and obtain another. If you do hire another attorney, you should tell the new attorney of the prior relationship and the problems you experienced. If your case is before the courts when you decide to hire a new attorney, a substitution of attorneys must be filed with the court to inform all parties that you are no longer employing the original attorney. Individuals are also entitled to act as their own attorney if they so desire; but, if this decision is made after the individual has been represented in the case by an attorney, notice to all parties and other attorneys is required.

You can also contact the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility, which is dedicated to making a positive and lasting contribution to society by providing assistance to legal professionals and to consumers.

In response to consumer needs, the Board of Professional Responsibility created the Consumer Assistance Program (CAP) to help people with questions or problems with their Tennessee lawyer. CAP acts a central intake point for calls and correspondence. Many problems with attorneys can be resolved by providing information, contacting the lawyer, or informally mediating the dispute.

CAP successfully resolves many problems without the filing of a formal complaint, but a matter may be turned over to Disciplinary Counsel for further review if it cannot be resolved in CAP. When serious unethical conduct may be involved, complaints will be referred to Disciplinary Counsel for investigation and possible attorney discipline.

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This information is provided as a public service by the Tennessee Bar Association. It is basic legal information and should not be considered legal advice or as a substitute for legal advice. You should consult an attorney if you have questions concerning a specific situation.