October 10, 2012
The South Carolina Supreme Court has rejected a proposed admonition and ordered a public reprimand of an attorney for misconduct in a car accident civil suit.
The client met with the attorney after prior counsel had been relieved. They discussed the case. When the case was next called in court, the client advised the judge that he had retained the attorney. The attorney later appeared and confirmed that he was retained.
The attorney failed to attend to the case, which was eventually dismissed. As one might expect, a bar grievance was filed.
The attorney claimed he was not retained because no fee agreement was signed. His alternative defense was that he was representing the client diligently. We lawyers call that inconsistent theories of the case.
The court held that the rules required a written fee agreement "are designed to protect the clients from inadequate representation, not to determine the existence of an attorney-client relationship." The client had reason to believe that the attorney represented him and the relationship was established as a matter of law.
The attorney also must complete ethics school within six months. (Mike Frisch)
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