Even though they’re often still working within legal practice guidelines, there are a lot of things that lawyers do that verge on being unethical.
So the first is not fully disclosing costs.
Lawyers have really strict rules around disclosing costs, but quite often the quotes aren’t ideal, or the range is too broad, and there’s no full explanation of how the costs are calculated.
Or then if the scope is changing, some lawyers are not up to speed with actually updating their cost agreement and telling the client what’s changed, and why and how the bill’s going to change.
A lot of lawyers aren’t great at talking about money because they really went into law practice to serve, and the fact that they have to do that within the context of the business sometimes makes it difficult for them. But that’s no excuse, because in the end, you are a consumer.
The other thing that lawyers do that can be borderline unethical is not providing all the options.
Not actually letting you know a variety of different ways that you could approach something, fully costing out those approaches and exploring them thoroughly – because you should be fully informed!
Instead, a lot of lawyers in their head think of the 5-10 things that could be done, narrow them down themselves, delete things in their own head, and only really present two or three to you.
Alternative dispute resolution should really be prioritised in the beginning, and the benefits of that should be advocated by a lawyer to their client. But it’s not.
Another way where lawyers can verge on being unethical is when they’re over servicing.
When a lawyer has taken over control and taken responsibility for a matter, that’s all good and well, but this it’s your life.
You should be informed every step of the way and be making the decisions.
Be careful when you’re engaging a solicitor, if they’re not providing you with every piece of correspondence, when you’re not seeing everything that’s drafted, or you’re not actually being engaged in the process.
Lastly, charging by the hour rewards inefficiency.
When you think about it, it’s a really strange business model for lawyers, or any service, when people are charging an hourly rate. It always rewards inefficiency when someone charges you by an hourly rate, because they’re incentivised not to do it quickly.
Those lawyers who are ethical and have a strong moral compass will of course try and do everything as efficiently as possible. However, for those who don’t and just want to gouge, it’s ripe. It really is.
It’s important for you to understand all these behaviours happen regularly, understanding that that is something that happens and being able to watch out for it.
At least allows you to be a bit more prepared when you are engaging in legal as a consumer.
Hopefully that awakens some things in your mind as a consumer of legal services.