Sunday, February 10, 2013

Question - My attorney has "disappeared" - what do I do?

There are several things you can do:

1.  Go by your attorney's office.  If the office is vacant, ask the landlord where the attorney moved.  You might also ask the businesses next door if they know where the attorney moved and when the attorney moved.

2.  Send the attorney a certified letter, return receipt requested and ask for a forwarding address.  You should eventually receive a return receipt & see who signed for it.  If it is returned unclaimed, again you have proof that you are trying to locate your attorney.

3.  Fax your attorney.  See if the fax number that you have is working.  Ask that your attorney contact your immediately because you have been unable to talk to their office after repeated attempts and it is urgent.

4.  Look on the State Bar of Texas website.  Most attorneys keep their information with the State Bar of Texas current on an annual basis.  Look under the tab "for the public" and there is "find an attorney" button.

A Texas attorney MUST belong to the State Bar of Texas in order to practice law in the State of Texas so this is an excellent place to begin your search if you cannot locate your attorney.

5.  There are local "bar associations".  Contact your local bar association.  Belonging to a local bar association is voluntary.  Ask for their contact information.  Again, most attorneys update their information on an annual basis.

6.  "Google" your attorney.  Many attorney's have websites.

Look on  Many attorneys have "claimed" their listing on this free website.  It is one of the most popular free websites on the internet.  There are many attorney websites, but this is one of the most popular.

7.  Go to the courthouse and look at your court file to determine the status of your case.  All files are normally open to the public.  You just can't remove any paperwork from the file.

8.  While at the courthouse, ask the clerks and/or bailiff if they know your attorney.  They might be able to help you.  Many courthouse employees know the local "gossip".

9.  If none of the above works then contact the State Bar of Texas and talk to them about filing a complaint against your attorney.  There are forms to file a complaint against your attorney - this is free.

10.  If you are unhappy about your legal fees and you live in Harris County, contact the Houston Bar Association, they have a committee that handles "fee disputes".  The purpose of this committee is to try to get people part or all of their money back. It is a 3 panel committee made up of 2 attorneys & a non-attorney.  It is a free service.  They meet with you and the attorney.  It is a slow process and takes several months.  I served on this committee several years ago & they try to be fair and thorough.

I don't know if other counties have "fee dispute committees".

11.  You would need to contact your attorney - you can get a copy of your entire file (attorney notes belong to the attorney as "attorney work product") & request an itemized bill of everything the attorney did on your case.  You will need this information for #9 and #10 above.

12.  If your case is about to be dismissed for want of prosecution, hire a new attorney immediately to finish your case.  Perhaps your new attorney can locate your attorney of record.

In your attorney's defense.  I once had an attorney injured in a major auto accident that was in a coma for 6 months. Her family called me because they could not figure out how to find her clients to notify them about her situation.  (Her computer was pass code protected & no one knew the code.)  Also, after a hurricane a few years ago, I know of several attorneys that lost their entire offices, so sometimes disasters strike & ruin attorney offices.  Sometimes there are legitimate reasons for why attorney's "disappear".  You might also want to make sure that your attorney is still alive - I once had a person call me to complain about their attorney & I had to inform him that his attorney had died suddenly of a heart attack so there was a good reason why his phone calls were not being returned.

I hope all of this makes sense.

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