Lawyers are not known as being the most popular people on the planet, and many jokes poke fun at those within the profession who are less than ethical – a large majority according to some. Happily, the situation is not as dire as ‘lawyer’ jokes may have you believe – there are honest lawyers out there.
But perhaps you are not so sure about your lawyer. Have you had a less than satisfactory experience with one recently? Perhaps you are thinking it is time to find a new one.
Lawyers can be expensive and if you don’t feel like you are happy with the services you are receiving it may be time to re-evaluate whether or not you should stay with them, or find a new one.
Philip Linacre is not a name you may be familiar with, but you may have heard of his client: Joe Camilleri, who has been hitting headlines this year but not for his music.
He was swindled of over $140,000 by his lawyer. Together with his former wife, they lost over $500,000, but they weren’t the only victims: Linacre stole more than $12 million from his clients using deception; promising family, friends, other lawyers and clients alike an attractive return on their investments.
Linacre even went so far as to make up fake documents to convince his victims that everything was above board. In March, Linacre, aged 61, pleaded guilty to the charges – a total of 21 counts of obtaining a financial advantage by deception and trust money offences.
Linacre had been working for Camilleri since 1984, and only in 2011 did Camilleri ask for the money he had invested back. After months of delays and excuses, Camilleri became suspicious and then finally aware that his lawyer had been stealing his money.
Unfortunately for Camilleri, his lawyer is now out of money so he is suing the Legal Services Board in order to recover his losses.
Perhaps you are not facing a loss as drastic as the ones that Linacre perpetuated, but here are some of the things that you should consider if you really aren’t happy with your lawyer:
- Costs – lawyers can certainly be expensive, but if you feel like you have absolutely no idea what your money has achieved, you are not alone. Costs is the top area that the Law Society receives complaints about. Some law firms have even charged clients for a ‘free’ first consultation which went longer than the prescribed 30 or 60 minutes! If your lawyer is not upfront about costs, or your bill comes as a nasty surprise it may well be worth exploring alternatives.
- Experience – does your lawyer have the kind of experience necessary to ensure that your case will be prepared and represented in the best possible way? Specialist lawyers are much better equipped to deal with your case as they have already done so numerous times
- Time – does your lawyer have enough time for you? Often lawyers may be pressured into taking on more clients than their time allows. This can have a detrimental effect on your case if lawyers are too busy to give your case the time it needs
- Results – if you lose in court this is of course not always the fault of your lawyer. But if you feel like you were promised a whole lot more than what you achieved you may be feeling very resentful. Read testimonials from clients, if you can or try to find out what other results your lawyer has achieved in cases similar to yours.
If you really aren’t happy with the conduct of your lawyer, you can also lodge a complaint with the Australian Law Society, who regulate the industry.
You can also check the register of the Officer of the Legal Services Commissioner – there is a list of lawyers who have been caught out, along with their misdemeanours and the disciplinary action taken against them.
You can fire your lawyer if you are not happy with the services, but you will most likely still have to pay for all the work that they did on your case up until that point.
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