(Note: Edited to address recent inquiries about lawyer suspension, sudden lawyer sickness, and lack of communication – original published on 04/23/2015)
Some recent lawyer suspension reports have been adding an influx of calls lately, and I wrote this a few years ago to help.
This has been helpful for some folks who have found themselves in a similar situation. While I certainly hope that no one is ever in this position, having some direction on what to do can be a life saver. My first recommendation is to contact the Florida Bar – if there are pending complaints, they should be able to tell you. You never know, there may be others in a similar situation. They may also be able to tell you if your lawyer has closed up the practice or other news.
Every individual’s biggest fear in active litigation is that their attorney suddenly does not fit their needs.
For some, they will simply stop representing them. For others, they cannot reach their attorney or there is no response from attorney’s firm. Believe it or not, this is one of the most common complaints between lawyer and client.
Then there are those instances that even an attorney shudders when the hear it – the law firm has closed its doors (seemingly over night), the lawyer has been disciplined by the Florida Bar or even that the attorney is now suspended or disbarred.
A lot of these situations can be avoided; however, here, I will try to give you pointed advice on what to do if you find yourself in the worst position for a party to a lawsuit to imagine – your lawyer’s offices closed, he or she has stopped responding to your emails and phone calls, your calls don’t go through to their firm, you have found way too many complaints against your lawyer, or even if he was sent to jail. The bottom line – time is of the essence so you can minimize the impact to your case.
<h4>If your attorney was recently suspended, and you need a new one, or you are finding that you do not trust them to handle your legal issues – we offer three very easy ways to reach us: call (813) 252-0239, e-mail us, or schedule with me online. </h4>
First, try not to panic!
I know that is easier said than done. If you cannot contact your attorney or there is no response from an attorney – don’t start by posting things on social media asking or making complaints. If someone from the other side of the law suit sees you doing this, it may give them ideas on how to aggressively litigate your case while you may be dealing with this.
After – that’s fine. But you need to make a plan on how to get your case healthy before that process starts.
Second, do you recall your last conversation with your attorney?
Do you remember anything about the conversation? Did they say they may be in court a lot during the week you are trying to contact them? Are you able to reach anyone at that lawyer’s office? Can you physically visit the office and walk in? What was the last status update you received from them or their staff? How about pleadings/motions?
Did you recently talk about a recent hearing? If so, you can check the docket online (usually) and see the outcome. A huge red flag is a lawyer missing hearings. If you haven’t received anything, are getting orders from hearings that were not attended, or don’t know how to answer these questions, please, get a free consultation from an attorney. If no one will talk with you, I will.
Next, gather the important documents!
I am trying very hard to not scare you, but this part will. Gather everything and bring it to the consultation with your attorney. Insist on an in person consultation. If you think you have enough information – you may not. If you walk in empty handed, bring a note pad. It is very important, going forward, to get as much information about your case. You may find that you were represented very poorly and that what you were told does not match reality. This is sadly the case in many situations. The goal here is to get information and be in a position to react to it.
Be Honest with Your Goals.
If your case has been ongoing for years, you may be facing a hostile judiciary, an a bank or opposing party that has simply lost its patience with you and your case. If you know what your goal is, it is time to move towards it – whether through counsel or independently. If you cannot reach your attorney, or if your attorney does not respond to you, you have to have an ability to direct your new attorney as to what your end game is – in some cases it may be litigating for a day in court and in some other situations it may simply be a soft landing (loan modification or other form of settlement.) Only you know what your goal is, and it is your attorneys job to counsel you on what is achievable and what is not.