Question: My daughter is now 19 and in her second year of college and my son is 17 and still in high school. In 2007 I signed a contract of services with a local attorney. We went to settlement meetings with her attorney in March 2009. We went to court in July 2009 only for it to be delayed. My attorney gives me all kinds of excuses as to the reason it is taking so long. I have paid over $4,500 and all I want is to stop child support on my daughter and modify my old order under the new laws concerning my son. To date, nothing has been done. My attorney won’t answer my calls or return my e-mails. It seems the only way to get in touch with her is call her from another phone number different from mine. Can I get my money back from this attorney and how do I file for damages? I have a job offer in another state that I want to take but this is holding me back. My question is: how long should this process take? Am I being jerked around? How should I approach my attorney to let her know that I will pay her for her services, but that I expect a result in a given amount of time?
Answer: First, I must preface that I do not practice in Georgia. In my jurisdiction, and in most jurisdictions, an attorney has professional rules of conduct that he/she must follow. In addition to malpractice suits there are also grievances that you may be able to file if there is a state bar. However, I must preface that I would need more information before telling you that you have any sort of claim against your present attorney. Legal fees are paid based on time spent as opposed to results achieved. It is impossible, and unethical, for any attorney to provide any assurances as to the results he or she will achieve and the amount of time it will take to achieve these results. The amount of time spent on a case varies greatly depending on a variety of factors including the complexity and number of issues in a case, the court’s calendar, and the cooperativeness of the opposing party, to name a few.
Without knowing how much time was spent and the hourly fee agreement, I cannot tell you whether or not you are being “jerked around.” What I can say is the attorney/client relationship is a very important relationship and trust has to be established. If you are uncomfortable discussing the case with your attorney or if the attorney is refusing to return your calls, you should certainly pursue hiring a different attorney.
I would encourage you to contact an attorney licensed to practice in Georgia to discuss the timeline of your case and whether you are being effectively represented. We have attorneys licensed in Georgia who would be happy to help. At Cordell & Cordell, we are committed to customer service and guarantee same day call backs on all calls received prior to 5:00 p.m.
Erica Christian is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, office of Cordell & Cordell, P.C. She is licensed to practice law in the state of Wisconsin. She is a member of the Wisconsin Bar Association, the Family Law Section and the Children’s Law Section.