Mark Bennett touches upon another pet peeve of mine: the elusive client file. Mark writes,
About a month ago a man hired me to replace his previous lawyer on his felony. I drew up a motion to substitute counsel, go the client’s signature on it, and sent it to the former lawyer along with a letter requesting that he sign the motion and return it to me along with the client’s entire file “so that I [could] continue my trial preparation from where [he] left off.”
He signed the motion and returned it to me within four days, but did not send me his file. I called and talked to him, and he promised to send me the file, but still did not do so. I called him again, and he promised it on a specific day. That day has come and gone, trial is coming up quickly, and I still have no way of knowing what work, if any, the previous lawyer did (operating under the assumption that the answer is “none,” I’m doing everything that should have been done by him six months ago). I have asked the previous lawyer several more times for the file and had no further response.
Seriously. What’s up with that? I’ve run across the same problem. I request predecessor counsel’s file and it never arrives. At least Mark got to speak to the other attorney. There are times when I get no response. Nothing. Letters are written, calls are made, motions are threatened and yet nothing.
Equally bad are those that claim the files are “lost” in a “flood” or “stolen from storage”. At least those give me a chuckle.
Hello. Criminal defense bar. It isn’t about you. It is about the client. You know, the guy charged with a crime? Now I’m not saying the whole bar is guilty of this. For sure, there are plenty of attorneys that promptly turn over the file, readily admit their mistakes and are eager to assist in the defense of the client (or in habeas corpus claims). But there is a certain percentage that views any effort by a former client to secure his liberty an affront to their lawyering ability. I’d rather it never come to this. If we all did our jobs perfectly the first time, these situations would never arise. We are all human, however, and being human presupposes that we will make errors. Our clients should not suffer because of that.
[This post is one in a series of ongoing posts I have conceitedly titled "psa". To read the rest of the posts, click on the "psa" category link below.]