The Florida Bar provdes a publication, A Consumer Guide to Clients’ Rights, which illustrates and provides 10 basic rights that clients are entitled to by law or by custom when retaining a lawyer. It also contains the Supreme Court approved Statement of Clients’ Rights that must be read and signed by the client and attorney when entering into a contingency fee agreement. Many of the suggestions in the statement are also helpful to anyone thinking of hiring a lawyer in any situation.
ACAP* suggests that you call and make an appointment with your lawyer and try to work things out. If that doesn’t work, write a letter describing your reasons for termination and send it certified mail, return receipt requested. Also, request a copy of your file, an itemized bill, and return of any property or unearned fee. Your lawyer is entitled to be paid any fees that are earned and unpaid and any costs that have been advanced, and may be entitled to assert a lien on the file until paid.
Your file is personal property of the lawyer. However, you are entitled to a copy of your file. Your lawyer may charge reasonable copying cost to reproduce it. ACAP* can contact your lawyer to help you get a copy of your file. Any original materials you provided to your lawyer are your property and should be returned upon request without cost unless your lawyer is asserting a lien for fees.
A lawyer’s trust account check should never bounce. ACAP will send you a complaint form and urge you to get legal advice about how to recover the funds. If you have suffered a financial loss due to your lawyer’s theft of funds, you should contact The Florida Bar Clients’ Security Fund at (800) 342-8060 ext. 5812 and request information on how to make a claim. The Florida Bar may also initiate an audit of the lawyer’s trust account, whether or not you file a complaint or a claim.