Statement of Client's Rights and Responsibilities
Your attorney is providing you with this document to inform you of what you, as a client, are entitled to by law or by custom. To help prevent any misunderstanding between you and your attorney, please read this document carefully.
If you ever have any questions about the rights as hereinafter set forth, or about the way in which your case is being handled, do not hesitate to ask your attorney. He or she should be readily available to represent your best interests and keep you informed about your case.
An attorney may not refuse to represent you on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin or disability.
You are entitled to an attorney who will be capable of handling your case; show you courtesy and consideration at all times; represent you zealously; and preserve your confidences and secrets that are revealed in the course of the relationship.
You are entitled to a written retainer agreement which must set forth, in plain language, the nature of the relationship and the details of the fee arrangement. At your request and before you sign the agreement, you are entitled to have your attorney clarify in writing any of its terms or include additional provisions.
You are entitled to fully understand the proposed rates and retainer fee before you sign a retainer agreement as in any other contract.
You may refuse to enter into any fee arrangement that you find unsatisfactory.
Your attorney may not request a fee that is contingent on the securing of a divorce or on the amount of money or property that may be ultimately obtained.
Your attorney may not request a retainer fee that is non-refundable; that is, should you discharge your attorney or should your attorney withdraw from the case before the retainer is used up, the attorney is entitled to be paid for the time spent on your case plus any expenses and/or disbursements, but must return the balance of the retainer to you.
You are entitled to know the approximate number of attorneys and other legal staff members who will be working on your case at any given time and what you will be charged for the services of each.
You are entitled to know, in advance, how you will be asked to pay legal fees and expenses and how the retainer, if any, will be spent.
At your request and after your attorney has had a reasonable opportunity to investigate your case, you are entitled to be given an estimate of the approximate future costs of your case.
You are entitled to receive a written, itemized bill on a regular basis, at least every sixty (60) days.
You are expected to review the itemized bills sent by counsel and to raise any objections or errors in a timely manner. The time spent in discussion or explanation of bills will not be charged to you.
You are expected to be truthful in all discussions with your attorney and to provide all relevant information and documentation which will enable the attorney to competently prepare your case.
You are entitled to be kept informed of the status of your case and to be provided with copies of documents prepared on your behalf or received from the court or your adversary.
You have the right to be present at court conferences unless a judge orders otherwise.
You are entitled to make the ultimate decision on the objectives to be pursued in your case, as well as make a final decision regarding the settlement of your case.
Your attorney's written retainer agreement must specify under what circumstances the attorney might seek to withdraw as your attorney for non-payment of legal fees. Should your attorney seek to do so, or should you discharge your attorney for any reason, you have the right to obtain the release of your file. If an action is pending, the court may give your attorney a "charging lien", which entitles your attorney for payment of services already rendered at the end of the case out of the proceeds of your judgment. If no action is pending and your withdrawing attorney retains possession of the file, the attorney must return it within thirty (30 days of withdrawal, but may then commence proceedings against you to recover any unpaid fee.
You are under no legal obligation to sign a confession of judgment or promissory note, or to agree to a lien or mortgage on your home, in order to cover legal fees. Your attorney's written retainer agreement must specify whether, and under what circumstances such security may be requested. In no event may such security interest be obtained by your attorney without prior court approval and notice to your adversary. An attorney's security interest in the marital residence cannot be foreclosed against you.
You are entitled to have your attorney's best efforts exerted on your behalf, but no particular results can be guaranteed to you.
If, at any time, you believe that your attorney has engaged in unethical conduct, you can report the matter to the Clerk of the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court, which oversees lawyer discipline.
In the event of a fee dispute, you have the right to seek arbitration, the results of which are binding. Your attorney will provide you with the necessary information regarding arbitration in the event that a fee is disputed, or upon your request.