1. The Right to Have All Phone Calls Returned Promptly. It still amazes me when people tell me their lawyer will not call them back at all. One sweet lady recently told me her lawyer had not called her back IN SIX MONTHS worth of trying. This is no way to run a business. Heck, this is no way to treat a human being! If your lawyer does not call you back after repeated attempts, send them a (nice & brief) letter and keep a copy. Still nothing? Get a new lawyer ASAP.
2. The Right to Be Fully Informed. Clients should received a copy of all correspondence received and sent in their case. They should also be given a copy of all legal pleadings filed by either side. If your lawyer talks about your case on a phone call to the other lawyer, you should be called promptly and told what was discussed.
3. The Right to Call the Shots. There are limits (do not expect me to do anything unethical just because my client want me to, for example) but for the most part it is the client who should decide if a settlement offer is fair and whether to file suit. I provide input, like best and worst case possibilities. I Help weigh options. Develop legal strategy. I even give my opinion in blunt terms sometimes. But my client makes ultimate decisions about his or her case.
4. The File Belongs to the Client. I had someone come to see me recently who had requested her file from her lawyer and she could not get it. Other people have told me they got their file but they were charged a mint for making the copies. WRONG! The case file belongs to the client. If I am asked for it because someone wants to go hire another lawyer, I turn it over ASAP and if I want to make a copy for my records, that is my expense and bother. Not the client’s.
5. The Right to Know What It Costs. I have a written fee agreement. It explains what I charge per hour, that I charge in 6 minute increments and how much you must pay as a deposit up front to hire me. The deposit is different, depending upon the case. The other elements of the agreement, however, are consistent. I also tell people what other expenses may be necessary, what happens of they do not pay their bills from my office, etc. Every month, I send out detailed bills showing what I did and what was charged for it. Lawyers do not have to do all of these things . . . but they are required to charge a reasonable fee.
Source: VA Family Law Blog.