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Most clients don’t know how to be clients…you need to teach them how to be clients. The below have been a long time coming for my Firm. Attorney-Client, Doctor-Patient are fiduciary relationships of heightened importance, these aren’t like a customer buying a pack of gum at Walgreens. And once you get compliance they just help your business a ton. You eliminate the needless “urgent” client calls, clients know how/when to pay, clients know how case updates are communicated, and they know what happens to their documents when the case is over. A good place to find Client or Patient Bills of Rights are in hospitals, the list below were actually partially based on what I saw while spending a good bit of time at Marquette General Hospital over Christmas 2012.
These are new enough that I’m still tweaking how we use them. I’m expecting that they’ll be part of what gets emailed to a prospective client to confirm their free, initial consultation. Further, they’ll be enclosed in the prospective client folder that we give at the initial consultation. Then we’ll probably highlight a touch as part of the initial client sales call. So these are our current Client Responsibilities:
You have responsibilities as a client.
- Payment for Legal Services. Your initial payment is required before any legal work is performed and prior to the creation of an attorney-client relationship (payment amount varies by individual case type & circumstances). A separate, written engagement agreement must also be executed prior to the creation of an attorney-client relationship. We send-out client bills on a monthly basis and all invoices are due upon receipt. A 10% payment-in-full discount is given to clients who pay their bill in full each month. You can pay your bill online at: Familylawchicago.com. You can also call us to make payments over the telephone, or, you can mail payments and payment authorizations to the address above. Attorney’s fees will be paid in full prior to the entry of a dissolution of marriage or the final resolution of a client’s matter unless prior arrangements have been made by client and attorney consents to monthly payments after the conclusion of the case. We reserve the right to withdraw from this matter for any just reason as permitted or required by the Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct and as permitted by the rules of courts of the State ofIllinois. Upon termination, you agree to pay for all services rendered to the date of termination and all other fees, charges, and expenses incurred.
- Client Costs: Reimbursement. In client matters that involve the court system, court filing fees, service of process expenses, and all costs that must be paid to the circuit court clerk or the sheriff to file a case are the client’s responsibility and must be paid in advance. We do not charge for travel time. We do not charge for general copying or regular first class mail. We do require client reimbursement for premium delivery services such us overnight mail, FedEx/UPS, or the various certified/registered mail products. We do require client reimbursement for major copying projects of more than 100 pages such as copying a client’s entire file.
- Honesty is the Best Policy. Honesty is a must for both client and attorney. It is critical that our Firm be open and honest with clientele so they develop trust in us and know we are reliable. The Illinois Rules of Professional Conduct require that we do not make false statements of fact or law. Therefore clients must fully inform us of all details relating to the matter in which we are representing them. This includes all actions taken either by a client or by previous counsel, and any negotiations with the opposing party. The truth can come out at the worst possible time if people are not honest.
- General Communication. We have a strong preference for e-mail communication because it’s less obtrusive for everyone. We want to provide thorough legal representation which requires intense concentration and attention to detail and constant interruption doesn’t serve that purpose. At a minimum our lawyers and staff check e-mail at the start and end of the business day. Billing, scheduling, and administrative questions should be addressed to our Client Relations Manager while substantive legal matters should be directed to a lawyer. Clients should communicate address or contact changes as soon as possible, even after their matter is completed since this allows us to keep you informed about important changes of law that may affect you.
- Appointments with Attorneys (subject to “Emergency” exception below). All attorney appointments (whether in-person or telephone) should be set through our Website: Familylawchicago.com. Our main office is located at161 N. Clark Street, Suite. 3200,Chicago,Illinois (Clark/Randolph). We also offer various suburbanChicago locations, by appointment only. You can also schedule appointments over the telephone (312-893-5888) by calling our Client Relations Manager.
- The Definition of an “Emergency.” An emergency is a situation that requires immediate attorney attention and cannot wait until normal business hours (8:45am – 4:45pm) or regular appointment scheduling. Emergencies are very rare. Within our family law practice the following circumstances would constitute an emergency: A person has been arrested, domestic violence has been threatened, or a child or children’s possession or safety is at risk.
- Privacy & Confidentiality. Confidentiality is the cornerstone of our profession. Client matters are kept strictly confidential both inside and outside the office, including the fact that a client is represented at all. Strict discretion is used when making telephone calls and client materials are secured and not subject to casual review. There is no expiration date on the Attorney-Client privilege.
- Treatment of Opposing Parties. We are pro-marriage and pro-family divorce lawyers because family relationships don’t end just because a marriage or other relationship does (among other areas of practice). We follow the Golden Rule and treat our clients, other lawyers, and opposing clients in the same manner we want to be treated.
- File Retention. Our client file is your property. At the end of our legal representation we return all client trust property (original documents, insurance policies, estate plans, etc.) to the client. At your request, we can also give you the client file in its entirety. If a client does not request his hard file in its entirety, subject to the above we will save a digital copy of the client file and discard the hard copy of the client file.
- New Developments in a Case. We promise to communicate to you and to actually show you all work that is occurring on your matter. Our Client Relations Manager will forward you all documents relating to your case such as court orders, pleadings, correspondence, and monthly invoices. The attorney assigned to your case will communicate with you regarding legal advice and substantive matters.
- Referrals & Repeat Business. Our goal is to create client loyalty from day one. All follow-up questions and discussions related to the matter that we represented you on in the past are free-of-charge. For example, if we represented you in a child custody matter and you wanted to discuss possible changes to a parenting agreement and how that could be accomplished, that would not be billed. All repeat clients or their referrals are given a 20% discount on attorney’s fees. Continuing with the example above, if you now wanted us to file a petition in court to modify substantive provisions of a previous child custody order you would be charged at a 20% discounted fee compared to the attorney’s fees currently in effect at the time of the repeat business.
- Great Lawyers Serving Great Clients. We are a specialized domestic relations and elder law firm that strives to provide great value and service in our legal services business. We provide premium legal services at value-oriented prices. We don’t want to be the priciest firm around but our fees must support the staff, technology, and training necessary to provide the finest legal representation possible. Our clients are responsive in communication, courteous with regards to appointments, they inform our lawyers on all facts about a situation, and pay their bill promptly.