Attorneys suffering from depression or involved in drug addiction will often abandon their practices. The attorney stops returning the clients’ phone calls, the staff covers for the attorney to keep their jobs as long as possible and eventually, the client learns that crucial deadlines have been missed and the case is destroyed.
The Entrekin Law Firm settled a case for millions of dollars where an attorney suffering from depression abandoned his practice and lied about it to his clients. This abandonment went on over a period of more than a year, with the attorney even taking active steps to prevent the clients from learning that their cases had been dismissed. He actually pretended to have hired expert witnesses and would have the clients show up for “court hearings” and then claim that the hearing had been cancelled. After the legal malpractice case against him was settled (along with other malpractice cases brought on behalf of some of his other clients), the attorney was disbarred. Ironically, he had been a prominent professional malpractice attorney.
In another abandonment case, an attorney with a number of large commercial cases succumbed to depression and drug addiction and simply stopped working on his client’s cases, without telling his clients. This was actually the second time he had abandoned his case load, having gotten away with it the first time.
If your attorney is slow to return phone calls or does a poor job of keeping you informed, this is a serious problem, but does not rise to the level of abandonment. Abandonment occurs when an attorney consistently fails to meet court ordered deadlines, causing serious damage to your case that cannot be repaired. An abandonment case is made much stronger if there is written evidence that the attorney has lied about the missed deadlines.
Fortunately, serious abandonment cases are relatively rare, but they do occasionally occur.