State Bar of Montana

The Responsibilities of Lawyers

When a person hires or retains a lawyer, a lawyer/client relationship is created between the two. In that relationship, the lawyer's primary task is to make sure that the law client's legal rights are protected fully.

  • A law client is entitled to be treated with courtesy and consideration at all times by their lawyer and the other lawyers and personnel in the lawyer's office.
  • A law client is entitled to a lawyer who is fully capable of handling the client's case or legal matter. Lawyers must use their best efforts on behalf of their clients. But lawyers cannot, of course, guarantee particular results in cases.
  • Lawyers must preserve confidences and secrets that are revealed to them in the course of a lawyer/client relationship.
  • A law client is entitled to a written contract, which is sometimes called a "retainer agreement" or "letter of engagement". The client has the right to be kept informed of the status of the client's case or legal matter, and is entitled to copies of all correspondence and legal documents prepared on the client's behalf, or that the lawyer receives from a court or the opposing party or adversary.
  • A law client has the right to make the ultimate decision on the objectives to be pursued in the client's case, and to make the final decision regarding any settlement of that case.
  • A lawyer in Montana cannot refuse to represent a client on the basis of race, creed, color, sex, sexual orientation, age, national origin or disability. Your lawyer must show your courtesy and consideration at all times.



Some of the information contained here is used with permission from The New York Lawyers' Fund for Client Protection's Avoiding Grief with a Lawyer: A Practical Guide © 1998

The Reponsibilities of Clients

In order for a lawyer/client relationship to work effectively, the law client must be truthful in all discussions with his or her lawyer. Reciprocal trust, courtesy and respect are the hallmarks of the attorney-client relationship. Within that relationship, the client looks to the attorney for expertise, education, sound judgement, protection, advocacy and represenation. These expectations can be achieved only if the client fulfills the following responsibilities:

  • The lawyer must be given all relevant information and documents, and be notified of changes in the client's situation.
  • Law clients are also expected to pay the legal fees earned by their lawyers, and other expenses that are outlined in the retainer agreement. If questions arise during lawyer/client relationships, clients are expected to ask their lawyers for help in resolving them. After all, that's part of the job of lawyering.
  • The client is expected to treat the lawyer and the lawyer's staff with courtesy and consideration. The client must honor the fee arrangement as agreed to with the lawyer, in accordance with the law.
  • All bills for services rendered which are tendered to the client pursuant to the agreed upon fee arrangement should be paid promptly.
  • Although the client should expect that his or her correspondence, telephone calls and other communications will be answered within a reasonable time frame, the client should recognize that the lawyer has other clients equally demanding of the lawyer's time and attention.
  • The client must realize that the lawyer need respect only legitimate objectives of the client and that the lawyer will not advocate or propose positions which are unprofessional or contrary to law or the Montana Rules of Professional Conduct.


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