When being represented by an attorney for divorce, personal injury or anything else, you have the right to fire your attorney at any time. However, this is not something that should be done without considerable thought.
There are many reasons why your case may not be moving quickly, or you feel you’re not getting the result you want, but these reasons may not be the lawyer’s fault. There are several good reasons to fire your attorney.
The main reasons are if he or she:
- Has violated any laws such as bribing a judge or juror or offered false evidence
- Has acted unethically such as failure to tell the client about a settlement offer, represented parties with a conflict of interests or violated lawyer-client confidentiality
- Has withheld important information. The client is entitled to all of the information related to the case
There are other reasons a client may want to fire their attorney, but they may be able to resolve them without changing lawyers.
The main reasons are:
- The lawyer is overcharging
- The court documents don’t reflect the client’s wishes
- The lawyer is not giving the case the proper attention. He or she doesn’t return phone calls or emails within a week
It is important for the client to look at the retainer agreement they signed before firing their attorney.
If it is a personal injury case, the attorney will most likely have a lien on the case, which means they get 30 percent of the settlement even if they are fired. They can also claim for reasonable value for the time they worked on the case.
Consider The Cost
Finally, the client should consider the cost in time as well as money for changing attorneys. They may end up paying twice for the same settlement.
It is recommended to get a second opinion from another attorney. They will be able to tell the client whether or not their lawyer is conduction the case properly.
If a client has decided to fire their attorney, they should first talk to the attorney and express their concerns.
It is in the attorney’s best interest to make their clients happy, so it may be possible to work out the issues verbally, and eliminate the desire to fire the attorney.
For those who would rather not face their lawyer, they can write a letter stating their concerns and giving specific changes they want to see.
When You Have Decided To Fire Your Attorney
The first thing to do is to read through any service agreement or contract the client signed with the attorney.
It may contain a procedure for termination along with fees, and there may be certain steps the client has agreed to take. This usually includes a formal notice that the relationship is being terminated.
Before officially ending the contract with their attorney, the client should hire a new attorney, especially if the case is still in progress. This will prevent any transition time where the client doesn’t have an attorney.
The new attorney can become up-to-date with the case before the original attorney is fired. The new attorney can help the client end the first relationship. This is especially important if the client wants to sue the first attorney for malpractice.
Send A Formal Business Letter
If there are no stipulated procedures in the client’s contract for terminating the relationship, they should send a formal business letter by certified mail that clearly states the reasons for the termination.
Even if they inform the attorney in person or by phone, it is recommended to also do so with a formal letter.
The client can request an itemized up-to-date bill, and when they receive it, look for any discrepancies. The client can also ask for a refund of any fees paid in advance for work that was not done.
The client has the right to have a copy of all the files connected to their case. In the termination letter, the client should request copies of these files and stipulate where they should be sent. They should also mention a deadline before which the files need to be sent.
Client can pick up the files in person
The client can pick up the files in person if they want. In this case, they should make an appointment for a time and date to get the files.
If the case is ongoing, and a new attorney has been hired, the files can be sent directly to him or her. It is illegal for an attorney to withhold files from the client or to make the client pay a fee to get a copy.
In some cases, the lawyer may have mishandled the case, stopped all communication with the client or made serious mistakes. In this case, the client may want to go further than firing the attorney.
They may want to file a complaint with a disciplinary board. This process differs by state, so the client should contact the state’s bar association or disciplinary board to learn the process for filing a complaint. If the client wants to sue for malpractice, they should consult another lawyer.