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client files (Read 2146 times)

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client files
Jun 30th, 2008 at 12:22pm
A friend of mine changed lawyers in January of this year after becoming dissatisfied with the progress of her case. The case involved a legally assissted sale and division of property, after almost five years it had only reached the negotation stages. My friend had repeatdly asked her lawyer to resolve the case as quickly as he could, but her requests seemed to fall on deaf ears, hence her decision to go with a new lawyer.
At the time of writing her old lawyer has still not passed on her case files to her new representative. She has contacted the client liason partner of the firm to ask for an explanation on two occasions but received no reply. She did however receive a reply her from old lawyer stating that he had written to the new lawyer, although no record of this was found. Out of desperation she has now contacted the law society to inform them of the current state of affairs and also of her old lawyers past conduct. She also contacted legal aid a month after leaving her old lawyer, who  infomed her that all outstanding fees had been settled with her old lawyer.
I can therefore see no justifiable reason for her old lawyer to retain her case files. How does she stand from a legal perspective, in so much that her files are her personal property? After such a long period of retention, and with no communication or explanation for him holding on to the files, would she be justified in going to his office and demanding them back?
Any insights or advice would be most welcome
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Re: client files
Reply #1 - Jun 30th, 2008 at 1:51pm
A lawyer can only hold onto a file if he is owed fees. If, as you say, his legal aid bill has been paid there is no reason for him not to pass on the file.

However, the file is not the property of the client. Only those things in the file that the client supplied e.g. bank account statements etc are the clients. The rest belongs to the lawyer. So your friend can't demand them handing her the file. However, a personal visit with a demand to speak to the client relations partner will probably speed them up. No lawyer wants a complaint so they are playing silly beggars here.
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