Jan.16, 2013 – Ethical dilemmas affect every lawyer’s practice. This series of questions and answers appears each month in InsideTrack. The answers, offered by State Bar’s ethics counsel Timothy Pierce, are intended to provide guidance only and are not legal authority. Each situation will depend on the facts and circumstances involved.
A client who I represented years ago has contacted me out of the blue and asked for her file. It will take me some time to retrieve the client’s file from off-site storage. Can I charge the client for my time in doing so?
No. The file is the property of the client and the lawyer must provide the file upon request. In the Kitchen case, the Wisconsin Supreme Court held that it is a violation of SCR 20:1.5(a) when a lawyer charged for the time spent in retrieving a file.
References: SCR 20:1.16, SCR 20:1.5; Disciplinary Proceedings Against Kitchen, 273 Wis.2d 279, 682 N.W.2d 780. See Ethics Opinion E-09-03.