What to do when you run into trouble with your attorney

Clients don't know where to turn

You've paid your lawyer thousands of dollars and then their firm closes shop or misses an important filing deadline. What can you do?  Depending on circumstances, help is available.

Divorce bankrupted Sherry Nelson. Last August, she hired the Jacoby and Meyers bankruptcy firm in Tampa to handle her case. Nelson showed us a contract and receipts totaling $1,300. Weeks later she got a letter.

The firm's Tampa office closed and turned her case over to another lawyer, who asked Nelson for even more money to start work.

I reached out to Jacoby and Meyers. A spokesperson told me the firm is now working to resolve her issue.

If you have an lawyer who you can't get in touch with or you with whom cannot get a meeting, there are options available through the Florida Bar.

But in cases where a lawyer closes without doing the work, clients should look into three options:

1. File a complaint with the Florida Bar for possible investigation.

2. Consider taking the case to small claims court.

3. Consult with a legal malpractice attorney.

A client can pursue a claim such as a breach of contract, but they will have to pay that second attorney. Anyone going the route of small claims court should know it is a gamble and you will incur a couple of hundred dollars in court costs.

Before hiring any lawyer, you can check with the Florida Bar for his or her disciplinary history. You can also contact them for more information on their mediation services page at www.floridabar.org.

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