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  • Writer's pictureRobert Sosower

Be careful not to make decisions for your clients…

When you are representing a client involved in a transaction to buy or sell real estate, lawyers and realtors need to be very careful that they are not making decisions for their clients. If lawyers and realtors start making decisions for their clients, without permission from their clients, that is committing malpractice for lawyers and unethical for realtors.

In North Carolina, lawyers and realtors have an agency relationship with their clients. An agency relationship means that there is a fiduciary relationship, where the principal (the client) allows an agent (lawyer/realtor) to act on his or her behalf. Further, the agent (lawyer/realtor) owes certain duties to the principal (the client), such as the duty of loyalty and obedience, among others. Therefore, lawyers and realtors have a duty to act in the best interest of their clients.

Lawyers are bound by the Rules of Professional Conduct in North Carolina. According to a North Carolina rule for lawyers, “a lawyer shall abide by a client’s decisions concerning the objectives of representation and, as required by Rule 1.4, shall consult with the client as to the means by which they are to be pursued. A lawyer may take such action on behalf of the client as is impliedly authorized to carry out the representation.” (Rule 1.2 of the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct). For realtors, although they cannot make decisions for their clients, can, of course, give their clients advice. Further, realtors must be “loyal to their clients and follow the client’s lawful instructions; exercise reasonable skill, care, and diligence; account for all funds he handles for you; and disclose any information to you which could influence your decision in the transaction.” ( Therefore, when a lawyer or realtor is representing a client, they must follow the directions of their client, so long as it is not illegal to do so.


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