My question involves a consumer law issue in the State of: California
This is a concern I have about the services provided to me by my lawyer...
I retained an estate lawyer from a recomendation last year in May 2011 to dispute the way another family member's will was being administered by one of the co-trustees. I am also one of the co-trustees. I had plenty of documentation to back up my position, and my lawyer said I had a great case to proceed with suit. All parties involved agreed to outside mediation to resolve the issues. In July 2011, my lawyer said he would handle setting up the mediation before the case was heard in court by October last year. He never set anything up despite my follow-up phone calls and written requests. In October, because nothing had yet been decided, the judge continued the case to March of 2012.
For several months prior to the March court date, I again called my lawyer several times to be sure the mediation was scheduled. He never returned my calls until a week before the court date in March and by then it was too late for mediation to be held. Again, the judge frustratingly continued the case until May 2012 and gave a hand written order on the stipulation that mediation must be held on or before May 7, 2012. Needless to say, my lawyer dropped the ball once again and mediation was never scheduled or carried out. The case is probably going to be continued to July or August 2012 at this point, and my lawyer has still to inform me as to the new date. In a subsequent phone call to him, he stated he wanted to work out an agreement just between lawyers (between him and the other party's lawyer) for resolution. I firmly said, no, I wanted mediation so I could personally confront the other co-trustee as originally planned back in July last year.
I have been calling and leaving messages for my attorney for the past two weeks and today 5/25/12, finally got hold of him and he said that the mediation date is set, but the time and place is not confirmed, because he hasn't had time to call the mediator back. Meanwhile he says he needs a few thousand more dollars to cover the time he has spent on the case since last October. I can't imagine what he has done in that time to merit several thousand more dollars, but I requested his itemized billing so that I may scrutinize it.
Overall, a full year has gone by since we began and nothing has been done, apparently because of his incompetency. At this point, I don't really want to start over with a new lawyer either. I have carefully documented all of our conversations with him and have copies of all the court papers that were filed, etc. Do I have legal recourse NOT to pay him his newly requested fees (I have already invested over $12,000 so far with him!) if I feel he has not been holding up his part of our contract? He is obviously unorganized, forgetful, and inefficient. He initially assured me this whole case wouldn't take any longer than 3 months, but it has gone on this long all due to his fault and no one else. What can I do to light the fire under him and get him on track? Also, is it wise at this time to tell him I'm not paying for his errors and that I expect more professional and expedient behavior in handling my case? Isn't a contract between two parties supposed to protect both parties (not just him, but me too)? In other words, he has to be held accountable for holding up his part of the contract as well, correct?