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What Is the Lawyer’s Duty to Communicate With Clients?


In California, “competent” representation of clients generally means that an attorney must act with reasonable diligence, exercise reasonable learning and skill, and demonstrate reasonable mental, physical, and emotional ability to represent clients.

Although the specific requirements involved in competent representation of a client can vary, and determining whether or not an attorney acted competently requires examination of the specific facts and circumstances of the attorney-client relationship, attorneys are generally supposed to act with at least the degree of knowledge, skill and competence as other reasonable lawyers would under similar circumstances.


“Competence” also generally requires attorneys to communicate with clients. In fact, California recognizes a duty, on the part of legal counsel, to keep clients reasonably informed about all material or significant facts and developments related to the client’s legal matters (and to the attorney’s representation of the client. This duty of communication includes the client’s right to a reasonably prompt reply to communications, to reasonably prompt responses to the client’s requests for copies of documents relevant to the client’s matter (or the representation) and to other communications as and when necessary to keep the client informed about the representation.

The attorney’s duty to communicate does not require the lawyer to accept every telephone call from a client, to place one client’s requests above those of any other client (except in rare circumstances, the attorney has the reasonable ability–and obligation–to exercise judgment about the scheduling and priority of client matters), or to make himself or herself available any time the client wishes to speak or to meet and confer. While the lawyer does have an obligation to keep the client informed and to consult with the client about relevant issues, the lawyer’s duty of competence does not place the lawyer at the client’s constant beck and call.

It can be difficult for clients to determine whether a lawyer’s communications are reasonable and competent. For this reason, it’s important to consult an attorney promptly if you believe your lawyer did not respond to you in the manner required by law and the attorney’s ethical standards. Obtain a prompt consultation to determine your legal rights and potential claims – delay could prejudice or harm your legal rights.


Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Malpractice (professional negligence) claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against an attorney who represented you, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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