Commonly Asked Legal Questions

  1. Does a lawyer ever have any duty of confidentiality prior to undertaking representation of a client?

    Yes, she may. See TDRPC, Preamble, Sec. 12; Rule 1.05(a); and TRE, Rule 503(a)(1).

  2. I am having difficulty with my attorney, who can I talk to?

    The Client Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP) is a statewide dispute resolution program and service of the State Bar of Texas. It is available to the public and State Bar members (attorneys). The program was launched on Sept. 27, 1999. CAAP may be reached from anywhere in the United States by calling (800) 932-1900.  Please click here for more information.

  3. What is an arbitrator, and how is that different from a mediator?

    Arbitration and mediation are both forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).  ADR refers to methods of dispute resolution that are outside the more traditional means of resolving disputes through litigation in a court of law.

    In arbitration, the parties agree to retain a third party – called an arbitrator – to act much as a judge would in a trial.  Both sides present their case under the rules of arbitration, which may differ from proceeding to proceeding but are often similar to the rules of evidence and procedure used in courts.  After hearing the evidence from both sides, the arbitrator will issue his or her decision.  Arbitration is usually binding, meaning that both sides agree to abide by the arbitrator’s decision.  In some complex matters, the parties may hire more than one arbitrator to hear the case.

    Mediation is a process by which a third party, known as the mediator, facilitates a structured settlement discussion with the parties in an attempt to reach a mutually-agreed settlement prior to the filing of a lawsuit or before the case goes to trial.  The mediator acts as a neutral party and is specially trained to provide a structured process to facilitate negotiations that the parties and their lawyers often do not or cannot do themselves.

  4. Is my attorney allowed to talk about my case with others?

    Generally, no.  Attorneys are bound by the attorney-client privilege, which means that anything you tell your attorney in the course of your case must be kept confidential by that attorney and shared only with other attorneys in the firm and their staff.  In addition, attorneys are generally bound to keep confidential even non-privileged information learned during the course of your representation about you or your case.  There are some exceptions, however, which are addressed below.

  5. What is the judge’s role in my case?

    If you have a case in court, the judge will preside over your case until the case has been resolved.  Judges will resolve disputes between the parties and rule on all questions of law.  If a trial is held in your case, the judge will preside over the trial and will decide all questions of law.  If you have a jury, the jury will decide the disputed facts of your case, but the judge will instruct the jury as to what the law is in your particular case.  If there is no jury, the judge will also rule on your case and issue judgment.  If anyone appeals the verdict in your case, an appellate court (made up of several judges) may review the case and reverse the judgment of the trial court if it finds reversible error.

  6. I can’t afford an attorney. What are my options?

    You should go to TexasLawHelp, which helps low and moderate income Texans find free legal aid programs in their communities.  To see a listing of legal service providers by county, see the 2010 Referral Directory for Low-Income Texans, which can also be found at www.texasbar.com/probono (under “Helpful Websites for the Public”).

    If you do not qualify for legal aid, contact the Lawyer Referral Information Service at 1-800-252-9690. Through the Lawyer Referral Information Service, a prospective client can have a thirty-minute consultation with an attorney for $20.00. At the end of the consultation, the attorney will determine if they will be able to represent the prospective client and discuss the price structure.

  7. Can a lawyer represent both parties in reaching an agreement or a contract?

    The ethics rules governing conduct by attorneys in the state of Texas prohibits an attorney from having any conflict of interest in any matter, which would preclude that lawyer from representing both sides of a transaction or lawsuit.

  8. My lawyer did a terrible job on my case and, consequently, we got a terrible result. What kind of recourse do I have?

    First, you should discuss your issues or concerns with your lawyer directly.  If you do not feel that they have been adequately addressed, you can contact the Client Attorney Assistance Program of the State Bar of Texas, which assists clients in resolving disputes with attorneys.  To contact CAAP, call 1-800-932-1900. 

    To file a grievance against a lawyer, or to obtain more information about how or when to file a grievance against an attorney, to www.texasbar.com.  In the “For the Public” section of the home page, click on the link that reads: “Complaints against a lawyer? Get information on the process.” 

    Keep in mind that the fact that you obtained a disappointing result on a legal matter does not mean that the attorney did anything wrong.  Legal matters often involve uncertainty that can result in vastly different outcomes from case to case.

  9. How can I check to see if my attorney has any grievances or ethical complaints against him or her?

    To check on the status of a lawyer in the state of Texas, go to the State Bar of Texas web site, www.texasbar.org/findalawyer and type in the lawyer’s name.  It will list the public disciplinary activity for that lawyer.  You can also contact the Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel for the State Bar of Texas at 800-932-1900.