All Attorneys Must Return Client Calls, Even Flat-Fee Attorneys

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In a recent bankruptcy case, In re: Dennis Molnar, 19-bk-09525, 2024 WL 190919 (Jan. 17, 2024 N.D, Ill.), a court highlighted a crucial lesson: lawyers must keep the lines of communication open with their clients. When lawyers neglect this duty, it can lead to serious consequences for both the case and the relationship between lawyer and client.

What is a Flat-Fee Agreement?

In Mr. Molnars case, three lawyers from the same firm represented the debtor. They were working under a flat-fee program for Chapter 13 bankruptcy cases. This payment arrangement is called “no look” because it doesn’t require the filing and approval of the attorney to file a fee application. Instead, the court awards a set fee in exchange for the attorney’s commitment to handle certain legal tasks for the debtor. It simplifies things for everyone involved. This court ruling serves as a reminder to lawyers everywhere to prioritize communication with their clients. By being accessible, responsive, and proactive, lawyers can strengthen their relationships with their clients and ensure the smooth progress of their cases.

The Court Did Not Believe the Attorneys’ Excuses

The original attorneys claimed the debtor didn’t explain why he didn’t get the expected services, arguing he just wanted to switch lawyers. But the court didn’t buy it, saying the debtor must have been in distress to hire new lawyers when he had ongoing service under the flat fee. The court found the attorneys violated their duty to act diligently by not returning the client’s calls. So, they were ordered to refund half of the fees, totaling $2,000, and were held responsible together. Simple steps, such as setting clear communication protocols and showing empathy towards clients’ emotional struggles, can make a big difference. Ultimately, lawyers who prioritize communication not only improve their professional reputation but also better serve their clients’ interests.

Even Thinking About Bankruptcy is Emotionally Overwhelming

Bankruptcy can be overwhelming for clients, and they rely on their lawyers for guidance and support. When lawyers fail to return calls or respond promptly to their clients’ concerns, it can create frustration and erode trust.

The Problem with Flat-Fee Attorneys

The main problem with flat-fee attorneys is that once they’re paid upfront or after only a part of the overall job is completed (like in a Chapter 13 bankruptcy), they might not feel as motivated to provide thorough or timely service. Clients could end up feeling neglected, especially if their case hits unexpected hurdles. Additionally, clients might not fully comprehend what the flat fee covers, which could cause confusion and conflict. Since the money’s already been collected, there might be less incentive for attorneys to keep clients updated or respond promptly to their concerns.

Everyone Wants to Know What it Will Cost to File Bankruptcy, But it is Rare That an Attorney Can Predict the Future.

It’s tough for attorneys to give a precise cost for filing bankruptcy because each case is different. While they can offer estimates based on common situations, unexpected factors can affect the final price. Being transparent about fees and communicating openly with clients about potential expenses is crucial.

Attorneys Should Prioritize Their Client’s Needs Over Their Own

This court ruling serves as a reminder to lawyers everywhere to prioritize communication with their clients. By being accessible, responsive, and proactive, lawyers can strengthen their relationships with their clients and ensure the smooth progress of their cases.

The Rules Governing an Attorney’s Behavior Require They Communicate with Their Client

Simple steps, such as setting clear communication protocols and showing empathy towards clients’ emotional struggles, can make a big difference. Ultimately, lawyers who prioritize communication not only improve their professional reputation but also better serve their clients’ interests.

In Summary:

An experienced bankruptcy attorney is essential to help you navigate the complex laws and real-world concerns of bankruptcy. Good attorneys may offer flat fees, but they should never abandon their clients.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to tell what type of attorney you are hiring.  Their reviews might be honest, but the larger advertising law firms pay for reviews or even fake them.

Don’t hesitate to trust your instincts and choose an attorney who makes you feel comfortable and confident in their abilities. Remember that finding the right attorney is crucial for achieving a successful outcome in your legal matter, so take your time and don’t settle for the first option you come across.

Are you experiencing hardship with bankruptcy and your home? Get relief today by obtaining FREE financial advice from Diane.  All you have to do is follow the steps on the Individual Bankruptcy page by clicking the button below.

770 words|3.9 min read|Categories: Bankruptcy, Bankruptcy Articles & Resources, Consumer Issues|By |Published On: February 11th, 2024|Last Updated: February 11th, 2024|

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Diane is a well respected Arizona bankruptcy and foreclosure attorney. As a retired law professor, she believes in offering everyone, not just her clients, advice about bankruptcy and Arizona foreclosure laws. Diane is also a mentor to hundreds of Arizona attorneys.

*Important Note from Diane: Everything on this web site is offered for educational purposes only and not intended to provide legal advice, nor create an attorney client relationship between you, me, or the author of any article. Information in this web site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from an attorney familiar with your personal circumstances and licensed to practice law in your state. Make sure to check out their reviews.*

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