By Kruger Engelbrecht on October 12, 2018
Our job is to listen to your problem, give you legal advice, discuss your options, take instructions about what you want to do and help you understand how the law applies to your case. We have a number of duties towards you - the most important is to act honestly and in your best interests, to maintain confidentiality and avoid conflicts of interest, to communicate efficiently and in a timely manner with you and to act with skill and diligence.

The Attorney's Obligations

In general, as the client of an attorney you have the following rights -

  • to professional, honest and unbiased advice at all times;
  • to be treated with professional courtesy, respect and fairness, regardless of your race, nationality, age, gender, sexual orientation or disability;
  • to privacy and attorney-client confidentiality;
  • to agree the type of service you can expect and receive and to clear explanations in terms you can understand;
  • to find out from the start of the consultation what you are hoping to achieve, and aim to make sure that your expectations are realistic;
  • to know who will be handling your matter;
  • to be advised on the likely success of your matter and not to do unnecessary work that will lead to unnecessary expenses;
  • to an explanation of the cost implications and how the costs are likely to be calculated;
  • to be kept informed of costs, so that you can work out if a particular course of action is worth following financially;
  • to be kept updated on developments and on progress as work on your matter proceeds;
  • to responses to your letters and telephone calls within a reasonable time;
  • to a clear bill which shows the work done and the amounts charged;
  • to complain about your attorney if you believe the attorney is acting unethically or in an unprofessional manner;
  • have the attorneys’ account assessed and taxed if you are of the view that it is too high; and
  • subject to certain conditions, you have the right to cancel your mandate to the attorney at any stage and consult another attorney.

The Client's Responsibilities

On the other hand, as the client of an attorney you also have certain reciprocal duties, including the responcibility -

  • to treat your attorney with respect and courtesy;
  • to give your attorney correct and complete information, and to disclose all the relevant facts to assist your attorney to give you the appropriate advice;
  • to give your attorney clear instructions;
  • to enquire about the cost implications and how the costs will be calculated;
  • to pay a deposit if requested to do so;
  • to respond timeously to all requests for information from your attorney;
  • not to direct unnecessary enquiries to your attorney as your attorney may charge consultation fees for these enquiries, and this may increase costs unnecessarily;
  • to settle bills from your attorney timeously; and
  • to use the legal system, including the courts, appropriately and not abuse it.
More information in this regard is available at the website of the Law Society of South Africa.

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