Most Illinois attorneys I come across are decent people. Some are fantastic attorneys who care about their clients and others do just a so-so job, but they aren't bad people and do usually get good results. Some though aren't that great. This is the story of one of the terrible ones.
"Sure…. I’ll represent you, but only if you promise not to tell on me." This is essentially, what one Monroe County attorney told her client in the retainer agreement that must be signed by her potential clients.
“Client agrees to make all matters of said representation confidential between client(s), his/her agents, assigns and principals and to refrain from reporting any phase of said representation to any external agency, including but not limited to the Missouri bar, ARDC, etc.,” the provision stated. In Illinois the ARDC (Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission) licenses and regulates all lawyers.
She was trying to get the client to agree that they can't report any unethical conduct that the lawyer engages in. This provision in the contract of course is not legal and is a huge red flag. There is an Illinois rule of conduct, which labels this sort of action as professional misconduct.
In this particular case, the attorney claimed that she had seen the scenario in the past - a client would essentially make her work for free, or not pay the entire retainer, then hand the case over to another attorney who then receives the credit or payment for the case. However, the client had in fact paid the entire retainer of $7500. After a tumultuous period of representation, both the attorney and the client decided to fire each other via letters to the court. This letter was in violation of another rule of professional contact, as the attorney went on a written tirade of the sins of her clients past. The lawyer disciplinary hearing board concluded the complaint with the attorney receiving a punishment of probation and mandatory attendance of professionalism seminars through the ARDC. What saved the lawyer in this case is that she admitted what she did was wrong and acted on the spur of the moment out of anger versus plotting against her client.
Bottom line is that having the ability to file a complaint with the ARDC against an attorney who has not handled your case legally serves as a checks and balances system between attorneys and clients. It can't be taken away from you by your lawyer and if they try to do that they could get in big time trouble.
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