I have had the opportunity to sit down with many potential clients over the years that already had a lawyer and for various reasons were unhappy with their lawyer. Why am I unhappy with my lawyer's performance? Some legitimate reasons to consider firing your attorney include:
- my lawyer never returns my calls
- the only person I ever speak with is a paralegal
- I have never actually met the lawyer handling my case
- my lawyer was disciplined or suspended by the bar
- my lawyer sent me to a doctor that I am not happy with or is over charging me
- my lawyer works closely with the a medical clinic he sent me to and didn’t tell me about his relationship with that clinic.
-my attorney isn't getting as much money for my accident or injury as I wanted
-my attorney doesn't understand my case
-my attorney and I disagree about how the case should be handled
-I feel my attorney is detrimental to my case
- my attorney doesn't show dedication toward me or my case or compassion toward me as a client
CAN YOU FIRE YOUR LAWYER?
I am often asked can I fire my lawyer and hire another lawyer? The short answer is you're the boss and if at any time you're unhappy with your lawyer's services, you can fire your lawyer. You can fire a lawyer regardless of your fee agreement and even if your case is pending in court. Your lawyer does not own your case.
WHAT HAPPENS IF I FIRE MY LAWYER
Your attorney may be entitled to payment for services or costs rendered up to the time of dismissal, in accordance with your fee agreement. Also be aware that firing a lawyer after a suit has been filed usually requires the court's permission. If the case is close to trial, the court may be reluctant to grant permission if it will delay the proceedings unless the court finds you have good cause under the circumstances to discharge your attorney.
Keep in mind that under the law of some states, the attorney you fired may be allowed to keep your file until you've paid your bill. When you hire a lawyer, ask him or her about the applicable law in your state.
WHAT WENT WRONG
No matter how hard we try, some relationships fail. This doesn't just happen in personal relationships; sometimes your professional relationships also fall apart. The doctor you initially appreciated because your lawyer referred you now strikes you as only interested in your insurance money. The hairdresser you loved in the 1980s doesn't understand you want a more current style. And the lawyer you thought would be perfect for your case is now recommending a strategy you disagree with. It's easy to stop seeing your hairdresser, but how do you go about firing your attorney while he's in the middle of representing you?
THINK BEFORE YOU ACT, ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS:
-Am I upset with my attorney because of a low settlement offer by an insurance company that I think should be higher?
-Am I upset with my attorney because of something he has specifically done, or will the same problem exist with another attorney? For example, if you're upset because of a court ruling, you need to carefully consider whether another attorney reasonably could have gotten a different result. If you're asking your attorney to do something that's clearly illegal and your attorney has refused, you'll encounter the same situation with a new attorney.
-Will changing lawyers be detrimental to my case or legal issue? Courts don't look kindly on people who change lawyers repeatedly. Changing lawyers once in a case is disruptive, but understandable. However if you're lawyer hopping (sometimes call lawyer shopping), it can be seen as an attempt to game the system.
If, upon reflection, you think you have a valid beef with your attorney, first talk to him or her about the problem. Lawyers depend on their legal fees to earn a living, so most attorneys are motivated to do a good job and make their clients happy. It can cost you time and money to replace your attorney. So before you fire your attorney, explain why you're dissatisfied and tell the attorney what will make you a happy customer. If you're still dissatisfied after having that conversation, then consider changing attorneys.
STEPS TO TAKE
Once you've definitely decided to change attorneys, there are still a few things you should do before notifying him of the change.
Review the written agreement or contract you might have with the attorney. Does it address the steps to be taken to terminate the relationship? You'll want to understand the parameters of that contract as you go about changing lawyers. Your new attorney may also want to see a copy of that agreement.
Also, hire a new attorney. This minimizes the delay in switching attorneys. It also ensures that you're able find good legal representation before firing your existing lawyer. Ask whether your new attorney will take responsibility for getting your files from your old attorney, or if you should handle that. If you are a party to litigation, confirm that your new lawyer will notify the court as to your change in representation.
When you're ready to sever the relationship with your old lawyer, send a certified or registered letter that clearly states you are terminating the relationship, and that the lawyer is to cease working on any pending matters. Don't get into details about why you're firing him - it's not relevant. In the letter, request all of your files. Or, if your new attorney is handling the transfer of files, ask him to cooperate with your new lawyer in this respect. Set a deadline for handing over the files, and detail how you want to receive them. Will you pick them up? Should the attorney send them to you?
If any fees were paid in advance and the work hasn't been done, ask for a refund of the fees. Also, ask for an itemized bill listing all pending fees and expenses. If yours is a contingency case, your new attorney will pay your old attorney from any money that you recover.
For more information or for a free consultation, contact Scott and Fenderson, PA Injury and Family Law Attorneys, by calling 727-321-0099 or view our web site www.scottandfenderson.com
The process of changing attorneys can be stressful, but if maintaining a professional demeanor while dealing with your old attorney should make things go much more smoothly.