Attorneys - What to Know
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Some of the major reasons people consult a lawyer include:

  • When a lawsuit is filed against you, or when you want to start a lawsuit.
  • When you have been arrested or charged with a crime.
  • When you are buying or selling real estate.
  • When you are seeking or being served with a divorce.
  • When you are pursuing an adoption.
  • When you are signing a lease or contract.
  • When you need to draft a will.
  • When you have been injured, either on the job, in an accident, or because of a defective product.

Selecting an Attorney
It is important to select an attorney that can help with the specific legal problem. Most lawyers practice in certain areas, and only take cases in their practice areas.

The Iowa State Bar Association can help you locate a lawyer in your area. Finding a lawyer can be as simple as asking friends, relatives or co-workers for the names of lawyers they have used. But in many instances, you may need help in locating the right kind of attorney in your area.

The Iowa State Bar Association's Find-A-Lawyer Program can assist you in your search.The service can supply you the name or names of lawyers who are willing to consult and advise you at a discounted rate of no more than $25 for the first 30 minutes. If further legal services on your behalf are necessary, you may arrange for them at that time if you wish. Visit

An attorney that cannot help you may still be able to refer you to an attorney or law firm that does handle your type of legal matter. If you call a law office and learn they do not practice the type of law you need help with, ask them if they can recommend another firm.

The primary considerations in selecting an attorney should be whether you feel comfortable with the attorney and if you are confident that the attorney is competent in the particular field of expertise. Some of the questions below should be helpful to most individuals in selecting an attorney include the following:

  • Has the attorney handled matters like this one before?
  • Does the attorney specialize in the area of law you need help with? (e.g. Corporations, Contracts, Domestic, Criminal, etc.)
  • Is there a charge for first time consultation?
  • How much does the attorney charge per hour?
  • Will the attorney require a retainer payment before providing services?
  • How many hours does the attorney believe it would take to complete the task?
  • Does the attorney provide the client with a written contract or a letter confirming employment? If so, ask to see an example.
  • Can the attorney explain to you what to expect and what issues will be generally involved in your case?
  • Do you feel comfortable being open and honest with the attorney?
  • Do you believe the attorney will be open and honest with you about your case?

Client Rights
When you select a lawyer you are hiring someone to perform a service for you. Thus, you should be happy with the services provided. One of the most important aspects of the attorney/client relationship is communication. During your first visit with your lawyer, fees should be discussed. In many cases, your lawyer will ask you to sign an attorney fee contract which clearly states how much you will be charged per hour for work done on your case and how much you will be charged for expenses such as postage and faxes. An attorney fee contract is always a good idea.

You have the right to expect complete confidentiality regarding anything you say to your lawyer and your lawyer’s staff.

Professional Ethics And Conduct
If you have a problem with your lawyer the problem can often be resolved by discussing it directly with him or her. If direct discussion does not resolve your problem, or if you believe your lawyer has acted improperly or unethically, you may file a complaint with The Supreme Court Attorney Disciplinary Board,111 E. Court Ave.,Des Moines, Iowa, 50309, or by calling 515-725-8017. The Committee will then investigate the matter to determine whether or not the lawyer’s conduct has violated the Iowa Code of Professional Responsibility.

Right to Discharge
You may discharge your lawyer at any time simply by informing him or her of your wishes. You should give your lawyer adequate notice that you will be changing lawyers because it may be necessary for that lawyer to ask the court for permission to withdraw. Even if you discharge your lawyer, you will still be obligated to pay for services performed on your behalf.

An Attorney’s Right o Withdraw
Most attorneys will ask their clients to sign an attorney-client agreement, setting forth billing information and an outline of what services the attorney will provide. If you fail to abide by the terms of your agreement, including making payment on your bill, an attorney can ask the court for permission to withdraw from representing you. Common situations when an attorney will ask to withdraw include:

  • Failure on the part of the client to cooperate in the production of documents or court appearances;
  • Dishonest acts by the client;
  • A breakdown in attorney-client communications;
  • The conclusion of litigation; and
  • A violation of an attorney-client agreement, which may include an agreement to pay legal fees.
You have the right to receive notice that your attorney has filed an application to withdraw. The court will usually set a hearing on the application to withdraw so that the client can fix the problem. However, once your attorney has withdrawn or has permission from the court to withdraw, he or she will no longer be involved in your case. You will be responsible for finding a new attorney and for complying with all court deadlines and court rules.