Can a lawyer refuse to return documents or Court documents to a client, if the client does not pay the legal fees?

Spanish lawyer solicitor obligation return give back documentation

Question:

Dear solicitor, a few years ago I started a court case against a developer regarding a property purchase in Spain. I have asked my former lawyer to give me back the documents I gave her concerning the purchase agreement, etc., and the court order. And she answered that as I still owe her part of her legal fees, she does not have any obligation to give me any documentation, or information. Should a lawyer give back documents ?.

Answer.

Dear reader, thank you for your enquiry.

I am surprised by what you have said, as a lawyer cannot legally withhold information or documentation from a client under any circumstances.

I understand that if you agreed a fee with your lawyer, you must pay the agreed fees.

But having said that, no lawyer could or should oppose returning the documentation to a client, or provide them with a copy of court resolutions of legal proceedings; or any other kind of documentation, under the pretext of not having been paid the legal fees.

Code of Ethics

The Spanish Lawyers Code of Ethics ( Codigo Deontologico), says thus in its article 13 paragraph 12:

“12. The documentation received from the client will always be available to him, a lawyer cannot retain it in any case, even under pretext of existing outstanding fees. However copies of the documentation could be kept. “

Furthermore, the Spanish Supreme Court, in a Court Decision, indicated that lawyers have a duty to:

 “custody of all documents, records, transfers and actions arising from the contractual relationship and professional performance and also with greater intensity at the time of the extinction (of the professional relationship);  delivering all the documentation to the client “

The refusal to return documents to a client, for the reason of not having been paid the legal fees, could even be understood as coercion or duress, with the serious consequences that this could mean.

Therefore, there are two separate obligations, on the one hand the lawyer must return your documents and deliver the court documents relative to her performance, including the Court Decision of the case, and secondly, you have the obligation to pay the agreed fees, but the fulfillment of the lawyer’s obligation cannot be conditioned to the fulfilment of yours.

If you need legal help, contact us.

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The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues.

Carlos Baos (Lawyer)

White & Baos 2015 – All rights reserved

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