The courts have made a distinction between a solicitor-client relationship and a solicitor-client retainer. The relationship is established when the prospective client has his or her first consultation with the lawyer or law firm about retaining services. The relationship is often established without formality.
The retainer is established once the lawyer agrees (expressly or implied by the lawyer’s conduct) to provide legal services. Until it is made clear by way of a non-engagement letter to the prospective client, it may be that a solicitor-client relationship, with all of its important duties, truly does exist.
Case Study in Point
Eight months ago Mr. Smith consulted with Lawyer Jones with respect to a personal injury matter. Lawyer Jones met with Mr. Smith for a half hour free consultation after which time he advised Mr. Smith about what he believed to be the answer to his motor vehicle accident issue. He made sure to tell Mr. Smith that he probably could find a more experienced lawyer as he had not practiced in this area of law for years. Nothing else was done by Lawyer Jones. Today he received a message left on his voice mail from Mr. Smith looking for his trial date. Lawyer Jones looks at his notes from eight months past and realizes that Mr. Smith’s motor vehicle accident itself was just over two years ago.
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