When a lawyer is hired, clients trust that they will provide competent representation and accurate legal information. Clients often trust their lawyer’s legal opinion and heed their lawyer’s advice. Still, clients should understand that the lawyer represents the client’s goals and interests. Clients authorize the actions of their lawyer, and the lawyer must do what the client wants. (See Rule 1.2 of the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct)
The Client is the Boss
As a general rule, the client is the lawyer’s boss. Ultimately, the lawyer needs to obey the client’s instructions and objectives. Short of the client asking the lawyer to do something illegal, the client has the last say. For instance, a criminal defendant might want to go to trial despite his attorney’s recommendation of a plea deal. Similarly, if a lawyer presents a client with several viable legal options to solving a problem and the client chooses an option that is not the best choice, the lawyer is obligated to do as the client wants.
There is a difference between a lawyer recommending a particular course of action and a lawyer acting beyond their authorization. A lawyer encouraging their clients to choose the best legal option is not uncommon, but the client gets to make the final decision. Furthermore, the client’s reason can be entirely their own. The client might feel compelled morally or ethically to choose a particular course of action.
When Lawyers Take Action Without Consent
Lawyers who act without their client’s consent are committing legal malpractice. Clients expressly retain the right to consent to settlements, agree to plea deals, waive criminal jury trials, and testify in court. Lawyers cannot decide these matters. On the other hand, lawyers are often given freedom in terms of how to accomplish a client’s legal objectives.
The lawyer is supposed to represent the client’s interests, and the client’s interests alone. If the client provides specific instructions, the lawyer must oblige as best as possible. Similarly, the lawyer cannot enter into contracts, accept legal obligations, or make significant decisions on the client’s behalf without their consent.
When You Need a Legal Malpractice Lawyer
Your lawyer may think that they know better than you, or that you cannot understand the full extent of your legal situation. Regardless of the reasons, when your lawyer goes against your wishes, it can constitute legal malpractice. Your lawyer has an obligation to represent your interests, even if you choose a legal option that he or she believes is not the best choice. If you are concerned that your lawyer has deviated from your specific instructions, contact us. We are a Chicago-based law firm with extensive experience in legal malpractice and attorney ethical issues. Choose to work with us today.